“Abolition Cannot Wait”: Exonerated Author Outlines Human Cost of Incarceration

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When incarcerated author Lacino Hamilton was exonerated and launched from the Michigan jail system in 2020, he credited Truthout’s ongoing protection of his plight for spurring the motion that ended his 26 years of wrongful incarceration for against the law that he by no means dedicated. Now Hamilton has not too long ago revealed a group of letters he wrote throughout his time in jail, In Spite of the Consequences: Prison Letters on Exoneration, Abolition, and Freedom. Hamilton’s editor at Broadleaf Books, Lisa Kloskin, spoke to Hamilton about why the letters within the guide are necessary — each to him personally and to the way forward for abolition.

Lisa Kloskin: You wrote and despatched hundreds of letters throughout your incarceration. Why are the letters chosen for this guide so vital? Are you able to clarify the method of choosing what letters to incorporate on this guide? What was it like revisiting your writing and phrases?

Lacino Hamilton: As a bunch, the letters in my guide define the human value of incarceration, and why abolition can’t wait. Any cell I occupied was routinely tossed and writings of all types have been seized, usually stolen. So when it got here time to pick out letters for this guide, I used to be left with what the jail didn’t destroy.

Revisiting the letters introduced up lots of ache and anger about my expertise, however I needed to share these letters as a result of, as a bunch, they define the human value of incarceration, and why abolition can’t wait.

On this letter you wrote, “I nonetheless imagine that if folks have been conscious of what’s being performed within the title of justice, of their title, they wouldn’t sit or stand for it.” How did you keep that sense of hope whereas writing these letters?

I didn’t expertise hope in the way in which that phrase is usually understood — wishful pondering. I grew to become a scholar of historical past, which is replete with examples [of] how continued wrestle can result in change. So I continued to wrestle.

In Spite of the Consequences: Prison Letters on Exoneration, Abolition, and Freedom - by Lacino Hamilton - book cover with typwriter and orange background with handwriting

What influence do you hope your guide has on the continuing abolition dialog?

I hope the guide helps to additional rework the jail motion right into a human rights motion, in addition to helps us all to understand extra clearly each a cause and the means for additional wrestle.

What follows is an excerpt from chapter 2 of Hamilton’s guide, In Spite of the Penalties: Jail Letters on Exoneration, Abolition, and Freedom. Professors reached out to Hamilton after seeing his revealed writing. This can be a letter addressed to a professor in Riverside, California, who grew to become Hamilton’s pen pal whereas he was incarcerated.

Pricey Professor James A.,

Since there isn’t a constitutional proper for prisoners to criticize or carry public consideration to insurance policies and practices that hurt us, the jail has taken motion in opposition to me. I referred to as into an Ohio radio station and articulated the necessity to create extra academic and employment packages for gang members: transformation by means of schooling. The jail labeled me a gang member. They adopted that up with designating me a member of a safety menace group (STG). Transferred me to a most safety jail. And no telling how lengthy I shall be in solitary confinement.

I put in a number of regulation library requests. From what I collect, jail officers would not have to supply procedural safeguards when labeling or designating us members of an STG. So the truth that I’m not a gang member means completely nothing. In accordance with the US Supreme Courtroom, the Structure doesn’t require an STG designation be preceded by due course of protections. No alternative for rebuttal. If jail officers say I’m a member of an STG, it seems much less like they need me to close the fuck up and extra like they’re taking motion in opposition to a harmful prisoner.

You might be proper, I can take this to court docket, however courts have held that when prisoners “declare” retaliation we should show that however for the retaliation, the hostile motion wouldn’t have occurred. So first I must show I’m not a gang member? Simply how do I do this? Ask gang members to go on report and say they don’t have anything to do with me? That’s the primary burden I’d have to beat. The jail is conscious of that. That’s why I used to be labeled STG first.

I can’t consider why a stricter commonplace of proof of causation ought to apply for us than for jail workers. Jail workers placed on their pants one leg at a time like the remainder of us. And so they lie like anybody else. We now have much less freedom of speech than a free particular person, however much less shouldn’t imply zero. Once we are victims of retaliation for the workout routines of what free speech we do have, we should always have the identical proper to a treatment as our free counterparts.

The implications for designation as a STG are solely two noncontact visits per 30 days of 1 hour every. No leisure time actions. A minimal of two cell searches per week. Out-of-cell motion can’t exceed a complete of 1 hour per day. Ineligible for meals packages. Restricted from sending digital messages. Restricted to 5 phone calls per week of fifteen minutes every. Unable to be categorized to work or self-help programming. And since different prisoners will be categorized STG for “associating” with me, I’m really restricted from speaking to anybody. The chance to simply stand round within the firm of different prisoners has been taken away.

I used to be informed that if I don’t agree with what’s been performed, I might file a grievance. Let me inform you about grievances in jail. Grievances filed by means of an official process are constitutionally protected, despite the fact that there isn’t a constitutional requirement that prisons have a grievance system, or that they comply with its procedures in the event that they do have one, or that they concern selections that pretty resolve our issues. Doesn’t that sound contradictory?

Really, grievances have been solely efficient when jail riots and violence in opposition to guards have been the order of the day. Jail workers would pay attention and search peaceable resolutions to prisoner issues again then. However when gun towers, tasers, and particular response groups (the jail model of SWAT) grew to become the order of the day, official grievance procedures grew to become out of date. Official jail coverage grew to become “may makes proper.”

The query stays why jail officers would go to such lengths to forestall me from expressing my opinion that academic, vocational, and counseling packages would lower violence and improve possibilities for efficiently chopping into the nation’s 70 % recidivism charge? STG designation is getting used as a canopy to close down impartial voices.

When somebody is launched from jail, officers notify native regulation enforcement locally. This may end up in my title being added to some homeland safety menace lists, no-fly lists, and different lists I’ve no enterprise being on for my perception that schooling can rework lives.

I’m not giving up (many have). I nonetheless imagine that if folks have been conscious of what’s being performed within the title of justice, of their title, they wouldn’t sit or stand for it. I imagine they’d roll out with us. Will you assist me share this with others? I actually do imagine within the energy of individuals and the politics folks deal with.


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