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This holiday season, please think of incarcerated people and helping them get home

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This holiday season, please think of incarcerated people and helping them get home

Dec 08, 2023 | 3:10 pm ET
By Jason Bolstad
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This holiday season, please think of incarcerated people and helping them get home
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A majority of us that are incarcerated today were just like you. 

I had a job with a reputable company, owned a house, had three children, and was your typical family man. Over the years I had seen or heard about people going to jail for various crimes, but it was nothing more than a thought crossing my mind. I figured they will get their day in court and sort it out. 

I always figured that if you were found guilty you deserved what you got, but now that I have experience with our criminal justice system, I see its flaws. 

I was convicted of four counts of murder in a single count case (one body) on a crime that was six years old when they arrested me. I received life for it. I am going on 22 years in prison and have been fighting for my freedom to this day. 

Don’t get me wrong, there are incarcerated individuals who need to be here, but then there are people who have received too much time or were found guilty of charges that they were not guilty of. At the end of the day, a vast majority of us who are incarcerated were just like you. We had jobs, families, did all the same things as you do today. 

Some of us got caught up in the heat of the moment, suffered some sort of loss and it turned into an addiction to fill the gap in their life, etc. Some of us just needed some sort of help, but no one was there for us or just didn’t know. 

I hope everyone will understand that when you judge someone, you really have to take a couple steps back and try to discern what is going on in that person’s life. No one person is perfect. 

Everyone has done something wrong in their life. You may not want to entertain what I’m telling you, but at some point forgiveness and understanding has to happen. 

A majority of us have learned from our mistakes, and we’ve made necessary changes in our lives to succeed. Locking people up and throwing the key away is not the solution. Think back to how things were when you were growing up — is this how parents treat children? We were punished by our parents, but they forgave us, and we learned from it. Don’t shy away from our life’s lessons. 

Prisons today have become nothing more than an unproductive society. Over the years the Department of Corrections has removed a vast majority of blue-collar education, creating a stagnant environment inside. How can a person succeed without direction for years? We are serving too much time and getting farther away from society. 

The reason why we are struggling is because the Minnesota Department of Corrections is short-staffed. Corrections has had to cut visiting down to four days a month from the previous 16 days. Now we have to wait for seats to open up because it’s so busy. Does this seem proper or right? It deepens the odds that you will leave in greater mental disarray than when you came in. Is this the solution?

At some point we need to get back to our families and normalization. If a person is succeeding in prison under these circumstances, there needs to be more opportunities for a second chance in life.

While serving time, you have a chance to reflect on life, about all the things you can change. When you make these necessary changes, you could only hope to keep moving forward. But incarceration today hinders that idea. 

We need to start working together and moving toward a better future, and mass incarceration is not the solution. 

Please take into consideration that we also have families who want to see us come home. There are goals we need to fulfill, but under these unfortunate circumstances it will never happen without your support.

Please consider giving us a second chance in life.

The Twin Cities Incarcerated Workers Organizing Committee is having a “Home for the Holidays Protest and Celebration” on Sunday Dec 10th at 1 p.m.; 1812 Nicollet Ave. S. in Minneapolis. Learn more here.

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