18 May

Lightning bursting with quick bright yellow flashes,

Lighting the narrow space between stacked metal beds

and the cement floor.  

Flashing for an instant, exploding on a head flattened pillow

in a room without a door.


Boxer, twitching and jerking his head uncontrollably,

face still red avoiding an imaginary opponent.

Inhaling and exhaling in short burst,

dodging and bobbing as he tosses and snorts

on strapped springs creaking beneath his bed.


Shadows quickly disappear on a cinder block wall.


The morning breaks down into neon lit hallways

with the sound of shufflin’an rushin’ in single file, to a breakfast

of hard-boiled eggs and a light portion of cereal on half empty trays.

Some with heads bent in silence, picking at their food with plastic spoons,

learning to balance their cockeyed day in Styrofoam bowls.

Others brag about yesterdays with a mixture of false pride

and disguised ignorance beneath dark blue woolen hats.


All remembering last night’s thunder,

all accepting their sentences as another flash in their lives

to re-configure space, and ways to pass time

in the dreadful cadence of ticking seconds, sixty at a time;

that seems to take no short cuts, before it consumes a whole day.


Clipboards carried with names blotted in bold,

checked for attendance, minus how long they have to stay.

How much they owe and how much to pay.

And… how much more without fences of barbed wire

or towers of armed guards when released

with empty pockets with no place to hide;

disgraced in discord, shamed and quarantined

to be labored in paper work and in digital files.


They have to go, their class has begun

on metal swivel seats, they simply just turn around.

Groupthink is in session. They must pass a test without a score.

They have to learn not to feel repressed in poverty anymore.

Not to steal when they are hungry or get angry without training or work.


Surrendered and in retreat,

They will have learned to wipe their nose on the sins of their sleeves.


NOTE:                    “…Nonviolent offenders are still law breakers, and they will break laws until
they learn their lesson. What I am saying is that we need to do a better job teaching
nonviolent offenders the right lessons. That takes more than prison; it takes more
than slap-on-the-wrist-probation. Drug and alcohol addiction must be broken;
discipline and job skills must be learned. When that can be done better, outside of
expensive prison walls, that is what we should do. Results matter, public safety
matters, taxpayer dollars matter, saving lives and restoring families matter.”

Chief Justice William Ray Price Jr.,
State Supreme Court



Tags: , , , ,

17 responses to “Residivism

  1. tt4r

    May 20, 2014 at 7:51 pm

    Thanks for checking out “what to do”. I think through the prison of life we can turn our fateful bind in the human condition (our identity identifying with what we experience) to a destiny in what we are, a part of a whole being on Earth – through our self and I find strength in what you bring out of life.


  2. Ankita

    May 20, 2014 at 3:08 am

    Interesting write with a powerful message…Thank you for sharing.


  3. Stormcat

    May 19, 2014 at 1:01 pm

    Yes . . . . But all that wonder for the view, of an exposed outsider, still leaves one unaware of the unseeable obstacles placed by a system filled with hidden agendas, corruption, cynicism, and absence of empathy. Where does one begin to break this cycle? I see some movement but it is upstream against a tough current. Thanks for writing this . . .


  4. jo-hanna

    May 19, 2014 at 9:57 am

    Tried to comment five times yesterday. Finally caved in and made a WP connection of my own.
    Wanted to say how powerful the effect of your writing was: it made me feel heavy and despondent. Prison is so often not the answer. Addiction is a disease in first instance and has to be treated as such. I’m so grateful that I crave nothing more serious than chocolate 🙂


  5. Susan

    May 18, 2014 at 4:37 pm

    The images of this narrative poem will stay with me, the beds, the boxer asleep, the shadowboxing that is so necessary to restore self but impossible to do in the regimentation of prison. Justice puts too many there for the wrong reasons. Recidivism is the result–for how many of us could “pass a test without a score…learn not to feel repressed in poverty anymore…not to steal when hungry or get angry without training or work”?


  6. Gabriella

    May 18, 2014 at 3:55 pm

    It is a controversial issue but this does not mean we should not think about it. And I, too, like Chief Justice William Ray Price Jr’s quote.


  7. CC Champagne

    May 18, 2014 at 2:29 pm

    This is, quite simply, wonderful! I don’t think I breathed at all while reading it (so please don’t write these pieces too long or I might suffocate! *smile*)! Beautiful, wonderful! Ahhhh…


  8. Poet Laundry

    May 18, 2014 at 1:16 pm

    I like how you create the scene for us in your poem. I can picture these individuals vividly.


  9. humbird

    May 18, 2014 at 1:04 pm

    Powerful and important message here! Hope we find better measures to restore their humanity.


  10. Rallentanda

    May 18, 2014 at 12:38 pm

    Skills and discipline are the answer.


  11. Sherry Marr

    May 18, 2014 at 12:34 pm

    Great topic-another case of an unworking system continuing because no one has the vision or dollars to do something more effective. Sigh. You capture the feeling of institutional life so well – love the closing lines.


  12. Björn Rudberg (brudberg)

    May 18, 2014 at 12:11 pm

    Indeed.. Prison and penalties have only two effects.. Train the inmates in doing more crimes, and by having them locked in, prevent them from some crimes… But society demands punishment.


  13. Sumana Roy

    May 18, 2014 at 11:19 am

    i like the detailed descriptions and the close….hope the day dawns and light reaches these souls…


  14. vandana

    May 18, 2014 at 11:06 am

    It will take time for reforms but will happen for sure


  15. brian miller

    May 18, 2014 at 7:54 am

    reform is far from our typical justice system…the death penalty shows no discernable improvement in the crime rate…confinement is expensive…we should be teaching job skills…creating ways to replace the old behaviors….


  16. Mary

    May 18, 2014 at 5:09 am

    The image of the boxer will stay with me.


  17. claudia

    May 18, 2014 at 4:06 am

    i like what Chief Justice William Ray Price Jr. says – we need different tools to bring people back on a good way – prison cannot solve the root of the problem



Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: