Yesterday I received a letter from a family friend who happens to be incarcerated for 25 years to life. In California, the three strike rule is like a cloud hanging over minority, impoverished neighborhoods where we see this rule most frequently imposed. It so happens that our family friend at the age of 30 was locked up with his third strike on a technicality involving a non-violent crime. The last time I saw him was eight years ago at his brothers wedding; two weeks later, he was in prison.
The letter was very poignant, I could tell from the tone that my friend was different, that being in jail for the last eight years has changed him considerably in a positive way. He wrote of wanting a friend to correspond with in his time of need and how much he has grown into a better man.
But what struck me the most about the letter is he mentioned how in his past wrong doings he never understood the error of his ways but now he is fully aware, fully conscious…or in his words “I stay woke”.
It amazes me how a person can be locked up, caged in like a wild animal but still somehow finds solace and freedom in the depths of their soul. Even in the most harsh inhumane conditions the human spirit can rise.
When I think of my friend it saddens me to know that he could possibly spend the rest of his life in prison. But I am also encouraged by his strength and courage and find comfort in knowing that he now knows himself.