In exactly two weeks, Ray Jasper will be dead. On Wednesday, March 19, the Texas death row inmate is scheduled to be put to death, but before he is violently taken from this Earth, he wrote an impassioned letter that is 100 percent truth, even though he is 100 percent wrong about his self-perception.
When I read Jasper’s letter, his eloquence and insight on the treatment that people of color receive in the education and penal system was incredibly illuminating. He not only captured the destructive nature of systemic prejudice, but he also accurately explained how our school systems fail our children before they even think of committing their first crime. The parts of his essay that stood out the most were:
-“I know the average person isn’t paying attention to all the laws constantly being passed by state & federal legislation. People are more focused on their jobs, raising kids and trying to find entertainment in between time. The thing is, laws are being changed right and left.”
– “Under the 13th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution all prisoners in America are considered slaves. We look at slavery like its a thing of the past, but you can go to any penitentiary in this nation and you will see slavery. People need to know that when they sit on trial juries and sentence people to prison time that they are sentencing them to slavery.”
– “I think prison sentences have gotten way out of hand. People are getting life sentences for aggravated crimes where no violence had occurred. I know a man who was 24 years old and received 160 years in prison for two aggravated robberies where less that $500 was stole and no violence took place.”
– “The other side of the coin is there are those in the corporate world making money off prisoners, so the longer they’re in prison, the more money is being made. It’s not about crime & punishment, it’s about crime & profit. Prison is a billion dollar industry.”
– “How can those that invest in prisons make money if people have sentences that will allow them to return to free society? If people were being rehabilitated and sent back into the cities, who would work for these corporations?”