Yes, I went to prison

Sure, I love serving those in the community whom need help… So do so many other people! Like I mentioned in previous blogs, I enjoy using my passion and charisma in order to maximize the impact of my service; however, my personality is definitely not the only definitive characteristic of my service. I like to be bold and take risks; I mean serious, potentially life changing risks.

When I was little, I was not the same perfect, infallible human being that I am today. In fact, on weekend trips to Pennsylvania, where a lot of my family lives, my parents would stop by the local “bad boys’ home” for me to absorb its appealing sight. My parents would say, “Hen, if you keep getting yelled at in school, you’re going to end up behind those barb wires.” I still remember looking in fear at the mountainous fences, razor sharp wires, and dreary buildings thinking, “Man, I’m going to be a good boy from now on!” I mean who wants to go to prison? I don’t know about you, but I always wanted to stay as far away as possible from them!

Well, sometimes, things don’t work out as planned. In my junior year of high school, I entered New York City’s infamous Rikers Island Correctional Facility. A simple google search shows that the prison is one of the most dangerous prisons in the country, but unfortunate Henry, not listening to his parents, found himself walking through the gated hallways of that very same prison with a bag of underwear over his shoulder and an admit card in his hand…

Being escorted by several guards, my peers and I entered a large cinderblock walled room, and laid our supplies down on a series of tables. We organized the clothing by size and waited for further instruction. Out of nowhere, we heard a loud siren proceeded by the clash of a metal gate, and I will never forget looking at my teacher in utter fear. The inmates entered the room without handcuffs and the only thing separating us from them were a handful of guards and plastic tables, and in a few minutes that simple line of defense would seem like a whole lot. My teacher gave me the queue, and I walked up to the inmates and introduced our group: Regis and Rikers.

The basis of the project was to extend service to the imprisoned and incarcerated, but more importantly, to spread awareness of the many imperfections of the United States Criminal Justice System. Now, you may ask, “Why a do you care about people that rape, murder, and pillage? Why not direct your service at those whom deserve it, such as the sick?” I thought the same thing for most of my life.

People forget that “criminals,” whether they or guilty or not, are human beings, and that simple fact should mean enough for people to care about them. I will not get into the specific problems regarding this country’s criminal justice system in this blog post; however, if you are reading this, I ask you to start thinking about a few things… First, does early childhood living conditions and development play a role in future behavior? Second, how does the current state of the criminal justice system ensure justice, if it even focuses on justice at all? Third, what could a student led service organization possibly do to bring meaningful change?



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