Ask an Inmate
” An American Hero, Veterans and
The Criminal Justice System.”
By Dant’e Cottingham
I am currently a unit tutor. Though I typically assist other inmates in pursuit of their GED/HSED occasionally prison officials ask me to assist inmates who can’t read,infirm,etc… Several months ago I was asked to assist a seventy plus year old man with cancer, in a wheelchair, as needed. We got pretty close and he shared with me his awesome story. Essentially, he was a Captain in the army during the Vietnam war, while saving the lives of some of his men, who were taking fire, he was shot several times, for which, he received a Purple Heart. Other than this current offense he has no criminal record, he’s currently serving three years for a nonviolent crime, of which, for him is potentially a death sentence.
Every single time I see this brotha, which is daily, I hear these same four words blaring in my head, “HE SHOULDN’T BE HERE!”. Nor should the many thousands of incarcerated nonviolent veterans, across the country, who, according to , commit crimes in large part influenced by PTSD. Now, please don’t misunderstand, I understand the importance of law and order→ you commit a crime you should be held accountable. Though I think its important for people not to allow their hatred for the CRIME itself to consume them, which tends to lead to locking too many people up for too long, and instead obtain the ability to look past the crime to acknowledge the person(and their story) who committed it.
And who deserves that more than the men and women who risked their lives protecting this country?
“Imprisoned Patients” by Dante Cottingham
They released a drug addict from prison recently. The brotha served about 5 years, his drug use played a significant role in his initial imprisonment, odds are that he frequently used drugs throughout his incarceration and based upon the conversation I had with him immediately prior to his release drugs are going to play a major role in his future.
Now make no mistake, he’s a good guy with a big heart for I’ve witnessed his kindness first hand on many occasions over the two years I’ve known him, he simply happens to have a disease. The Wisconsin Department of Corrections had him in the position to help him – to CORRECTions him.Though because of Wisconsin’s sentencing laws, “Truth in Sentencing”, a prisoner has no incentives to participate in treatment programs. I mean, Wisconsin has been extremely successful in being tough on crime, all prisoners are forced to do all their time whether they participate in programs or not, but not so successful in being smart on crime. For essentially, in Wisconsin, tough on crime equals no incentives, no incentives equal no programs and no programs equal drug addicts being released to your neighborhood. – Dante Cottingham