dispatches from a prison cell AND BEYOND

Our justice system is broken. Our politics are broken – particularly around issues of social justice, racial inequality, and mass incarceration – but more broadly too, on issues of the environment, health, and economic disparity. Now, I know that’s not news to you. But it is worth talking about, until we start doing the right thing more often, for way more people.

Before being released in October, 2021, I spent six years behind bars – a long time for me, but nothing relative to many I met inside those walls. And it made me really angry. Even furious at times. It also made me feel sad, energized, humbled, optimistic, pessimistic, uncomfortable, appalled, fearful, overwhelmed, worthless, loved, vulnerable, miserable, humiliated, uplifted, joyful, and grateful. Yeah, it was a bit of a roller coaster ride.

I had been meaning to put some thoughts on paper (so to speak) for a while, but when eight people overdosed at my prison in 2019, something in me broke loose. I couldn’t not write about it. It made me sad – and yes, angry. After that the words just kept spilling out, and they still are now, since my release.

In 2020, the Coronavirus pandemic, George Floyd’s murder by the police, the widespread protests that followed, and the politics of an election year provided plenty more fodder to write about. Those are things that all intersect with prisons, prisoners, and the dysfunctional justice system we’ve allowed to flourish for too long.

It was therapy for me, I suppose – better than yelling at my TV, or ranting at my cellmate. And since no real publication has given me a weekly opinion column (yet), I figured I’d just stick these ‘dispatches’ up here.

In the middle of 2020, Prison Legal News gave me a little gig contributing articles there, for which I’m grateful. Those are linked here too. In May of 2021, they gave me the cover, for a piece on “The Punishment Economy” which was especially gratifying. If you’ve never heard of PLN, I’d encourage you to check it out and contribute if you can. I learn an awful lot from them.

I hope the essays you find here give you a better picture of what life is like for those in jail or prison. I hope they make you a little more aware of the systemic injustice inherent in our justice system. Feel free to let me know what you think at threehotsonecot@gmail.com. Now that I’m out, I’ll have plenty more to say and do about these issues.

Thanks for taking a look, and for taking the time to want to know more. Hope it’s enlightening, entertaining, energizing, or some mashup of all that. Happy reading.

– DR

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