The second segment of the documentary takes an in depth look at Rikers Island, specifically the adolescent section. It zeros in on prison culture and the environment that inmates live within.
Jail vs. Prison
Any street smart person knows that there is a difference between jail and prison. The biggest difference is that jail is for people who are definitely and within a matter days going to be back in the mix of normal society. Prison is a place where people spend years and sometimes large portions of their lives. That means that people in prison are psychologically coming to terms with the fact that it is going to a long time or maybe never before they will ever return to life as they knew it. More often than not we focus on the actions that lead a person to prison and we measure our compassion by whether or not we believe they are guilty or not. In doing so we dehumanize these individuals and make them something other than ourselves. They are criminals, convicts, thugs and dangerous creatures that need to be removed from the world in which we live. That allows us to be apathetic to the conditions that these PEOPLE endure. But if we consider that we could be just like any of them, I believe our hearts and minds would change.
As a Black man in America, I have seen the inside of a jail. I am grateful that I have never been to prison but by the sheer fact that most of the times that I was jailed it was for speculation and “probable cause” and not actually for something that I had done, I have had to imagine what it would be like and what I would do if I went to prison. The scariest thought for me is not about what might happen to me in jail but what I would have to become to survive what might happen. I fear the loss of my humanity. I fear having to become an animal in order to survival an animalistic environment. I fear that if I were released, I would never be the same. In the first segment of the documentary there is a scene where Kalief is being interviewed on the street and he’s looking around and he says that he doesn’t feel like he fits in with society anymore. He sees these people with suits on going to jobs and being successful and he wants to be one of them but he feels like he can’t. Not because of his criminal record but because he doesn’t even feel like the same thing as those people he is watching. And because of the years he spent in one of the most dangerous of these institutions that change people into animals, its most probable that he won’t.
When Kalief came home he was soulless.- They literally took my brother away from us.
– Nicole Browder, Kalief’s sister
In America, prison has become a place where we disappear people we do not want to deal with. We justify that by some action that they have taken or by some judgment of their character but there is no way to make a human being stop being a human being. And because they are human beings, we must consider them as such. Part of the work that is being done by those supporters of prison reformers and prison abolitionists is to remind society that just because we throw people away to some concrete box tucked out of sight, does not make them not a part of our society or a part of our world. They still must be considered, if not for the sake of being humane then for the sheer fact that with the privatization of prisons and the outsourcing occurring in public prisons, they are a factor of the economy. For all these reasons we must begin to consider the American prison industrial institution and what it does and how it does what it does and if it is doing what it should. What it should be doing is rehabilitating members of our society who have erred. What it does it strip away the humanity of members of our society and condition them to forever be ostracized from the mainstream of civilization. And because of the seriously unethical flaws within the system, we had better get to paying attention, getting informed, forming an opinion and speaking out on it. Because it could happen to any of us.
I’m not sayin; I’m just sayin,
An Angry Black Man