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Sharaai's picture

 “Prisoners of a Hard Life” (PHL) took me a long time to get through. Not because it was dense of long but because the information I was taking in was so intense. I felt myself disgusted and uncomfortable with all of the information in front of me. I didn’t know how to digest it the first time I was going through it so I decided to put it down and pick it up another time. Though I had only read the first few pages during that first sit in, I felt that the information needed to be shared. I clearly remember talking to my roommate about it, at our kitchen table, and telling her how insane all the facts and numbers were. How incredible it was that “Of all people incarcerated in New York with drug offences: 93% are African American or Hispanic.” This really struck me because as a Latina woman, I imagined my cousins, aunts, sister and friends in prison on a non-violent crime.  I could envision my mother behind bars, away from her five children.

But then it struck me that I know people, very personal to me, who have been affected by these laws that imprison mothers, fathers, sisters and brothers for small drug offence charges. How the emotional damage to their families stays around for years on after, even if no one chooses to acknowledge it. This is why I want to keep thinking about the damage to those not in prisons. To those left out in the world to fend for themselves. To try and figure out, on their own, why their minds are not making sense, why they are feeling the way they feel. The numbers and percentages of people suffering from mental illnesses in prisons are overwhelming. I wonder how much mental health prisoners receive when they are quickly locked up and taken away from the society they are used to.  I hope to explore this perspective of prisons, schools and the communities surrounding them.