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Caught in the cradle-to-prison pipeline

ERIC CHARLES HURT | 8/6/2018, 2:53 p.m.
I am 30 years old, a Black male and serving a 35-year sentence. I have been incarcerated since I was ...

Special to The Dallas Examiner

I am 30 years old, a Black male and serving a 35-year sentence. I have been incarcerated since I was 16, 14 years removed from home. Looking at these tattoos that paint my brown skin from head to toe, I would fit the typical stereotype of a minority in prison: marginalized, and even smirked at, because I proclaim “innocence.” This slave complex we thought we were free from has only changed its name. On June 19, 1865, our bodies were legally released. I’m here to tell you that’s a lie. Slavery has a new name: the prison system.

Contemporary neurological, psychological, and sociological evidence has established that children are impaired by immature judgment and an underdeveloped capacity for self-regulation and responsibility. Growing up in prison, I can tell you this: just because you certify a child as an adult, doesn’t mean he or she is one. I have witnessed 14-year-olds, with children of their own, cry for their mothers. I have heard countless stories of deadbeat dads, but still these boys want a relationship with their fathers. I’ve had to teach these so-called adults how to read because they weren’t able to read their own mail. Many of these certified adults don’t know when they’re going home because their sentences read “Life.” These are children I’m talking about.

Schools have failed to cultivate a safe haven for young minds in minority and impoverished neighborhoods. The same negative influences, outside pressures, and peer pressures that exist in prison can be weeded out in our school system. Our children are viewed as a commodity and as property. Are you aware that there are data research companies that are able to label our children and predict their chances of going to prison because death, selling drugs, pregnancy and hindrance of further education is their lot in life? For minorities, school for us, is considered a slim chance. Why?

If we do not care for our own, who will? If we don’t teach them math, science, history to identify empowerment, language skills and proper reading skills, how can they ever be successful adults, able to pursue happiness? Prison is being cultivated in our schools right under our noses. The more money they take away from schools in minority neighborhoods, the lower the wages for those who teach our children. The minimum wages families are bringing in leaves some children unable to function properly due to peers’ outside appearances. So, it pushes children to take risks through criminal activity and gang relations to reap acceptance by school and their peers’ standards. 60 percent of people in prison are people of color. 20,000 juveniles enter the adult criminal system each year.

As of 2008, some 3,092 people were incarcerated from 10 local high schools in Dallas compared to only 28 college-ready grads from these same high schools. The prison complex has targeted our prized sons and daughters. The criminal justice system, predominantly White, has deemed our youth as “nothing.” The standards for our schools have become far too low. Do you care for the children? The mothers who have children inside prison are forced to struggle to send their children money to survive in prison. The prices the system charges for food and basic necessities are cruel. Please wake up, youngsters! Please wake up educators! Please wake up politicians! Please wake up parents! Please wake up religious leaders! Our youth need guidance and not traps. They need more love, better parenting, better schooling and better-paid teachers. These things all together will make better students, and increase all of our children’s’ chances at living a better life - outside of the Cradle-to-prison Pipeline.