I Am

By BB

I am because I am alive
I am because I have suffered and still survive
I am because I see the light
I am because I am one with mankind’s plight

I am because I feel
I am because I hurt and I heal
I am because I exist
I am because I stand up to oppression and resist

I am because I am a human being
One who felt and seen many a thing
I am because I am here
I am because I love and I care

I am because I make mistakes
To become better I am doing whatever it takes
I am because I am not perfect in my doing
Many failures have resulted in the goals that I am pursuing

I am because I keep on trying
I am now but one day I will be dying
I am because I came and went
I am because when I left the earth I left my footprint

Me and Jim Crow

By PJ

Twenty years in ADX.*
I’m asked, a lot, one question:
How long have you been here?
First, let me tell you something I know:
(Feared, is the unknown;) it is the confined person’s ghost.

When I was told: “the short trip,”
I couldn’t wait to get with “it”;
to act a fool.
For two decades, really, I haven’t moved.
It seems: I’m going in circles, but before
you jump to conclusions, understand: basically,
we all (are going in circles). Some big,
some smaller than others; we live by: clocks.
The earth revolves around the sun; I crossed a lot.

Administrative Maximum is a microcosm of society.
All the problems, symptoms, epidemics in our cities
are gathered here (again), interacting.
What wasn’t solved there,
resurfaces here.
It’s an environment where: you’re constantly
fighting insanity.
That, accompanied with: maintaining your safety
and trying to stay alert.

As an African American today,
in the Criminal Justice System, ADX,
has been a way to search: myself.
As many things here, the inside becomes: meshed,
in adaptation with outside forces.
(Weakening, or strengthening, building, or destroying.)
Sometimes what we consider: a curse,
can be: a road (a beginning), a door; our cure.

In the Era of Mass Incarceration,
as an African American,
I feel: very much, like a commodity;
as I come to the realization: (monetarily),
others have “set-up,” (taken liberty),
to map-out what they feel is: my destiny.
(A rightful place) as they gain. From a
long ago, enacted (scheme) to hamper the slave.
As with The United States Penitentiary, ADX, now I know:
(That scheme) has become known
as: Justice, Criminalization, Incarceration, The New Jim Crow.

*ADX refers to a maximum security federal prison. Everyone incarcerated there is held in solitary confinement.

Future and Past

By TB

See you soon, old friend
When we grow to become men
We are family, my brother
That’ll never change
Goodbye, old me
We are better now
We shall grow
We are stars
No one can change that

The Unknown Words of Solitude

By AP

They say I should be used to living in a cage
Because all my life I have been trapped in pain
But if they only knew solitude educated me and kept me from going insane

It’s true that I am a product of my community
And I continue to pray that one day society would stop judging me
And give me equal opportunity

The color of my skin doesn’t speak of who I am
So your insults don’t affect me mentally because I am well educated, talented
And proud of who I am

America can be so cruel and mean
But that has never stopped me from believing in my American dream

Hard times in the ghetto raised me to be mentally and emotionally strong
So when they tell me I will never be nothing after prison
It only motivates me to prove them wrong

I know that life after prison can be a success
Especially if I continue to be determined to succeed and have faith in myself

I Really Don’t Know

By D’Nell

I come from a long line of soldiers
We are as tough as a rope
I grew up in Stanton Oaks
They call me D’Nell
Because I’m real like steel
When I come around
It’s like I never left
My voice sounds like smooth jazz
It’s as mellow as a Sunday
My eyes are as brown as dirt
Right now my life is like hell
My future is as real as it can get