Friday, May 28, 2010
Ivy Carter #206034
CCI; PO Box 900;
Portage, Wi 53901
I have been incarcerated since I was 19 years of age. I will be 38 later this year. I have practically spent more time in prison than I have in the "free world," and I must say justifiably so. I am serving time for the worst crime that could be committed—murder. The specifics of what happened is irrelevant when in the end a person loss their life.
I must admit that when I was nineteen I did not know what life was about/ let alone value it. I was an angry abused child who was convinced that the world was "cold and heartless" so I had to be the same way in order to survive. It wasn't until years later that I realized that line of thinking was wrong and I had to change it.
My "stint" in prison has not been an easy one—change is never easy—however/ it has been a productive one. With confidence and pride I can say that I am nothing like the angry/ cold/ and heartless teenager that I was eighteen years ago. I not only know what life is about/ I also value and respect it to the fullest. If you have time check out my article "Where's The Governor?" Thanks. ELABH!
Where's The Governor?By Ivy James Carter III ©2010
What if we did not have governors for each state in this country and there was no one to fill that chief executive position?. Hypothetically, the people of each state would be ungoverned. History reveals that ungoverned people will lead to anarchy--disorder and confusion. If it is likely for ungoverned adults to lead to disorder and confusion, should the same logic be applied to adolescent delinquents whose prefrontal cortex, "which governs the 'executive functions' of reasoning (i.e., advanced thought, and impulse control)," isn't fully functional1? The human brain in adolescents does not mature and complete its development until around the age of 25. Put simply, adolescents do not possess the ability to reason and behave like adults.
With an underdeveloped brain--no governor — adolescents search for boundaries in life that will help them make sense of the seemingly chaotic world around them. For the lucky ones, that quest may lead to some form of "brief" punishment from their parents. For the not so fortunate ones, that quest may lead to a "permanent" punishment that can last until old age. I, like many other delinquent adolescents currently incarcerated, are among the not so fortunate ones. I am not against punishing delinquent adolescents for crimes they commit; however, I do question the logic behind locking them up and throwing away the key when their "poor decision making" was a part of who they were. Isn't there a more reasonable, judicious, and balanced approach toward keeping order and protecting the public once the child has learned how to reason and act like a responsible adult?
"When I was a child I acted like a child..."
By no standards would I call myself an angel. In fact, if you look up "adolescent delinquent" in the dictionary, you will more than likely see my picture. I was a troubled youth who saw trouble as a way of getting attention and making a name for myself. Each time I got into trouble I was referred to juvenile court where the focus was more on punishment than the reformation of the corrupt thoughts and behaviors that I had. I was left to handle and figure those things out for myself and, like a dog, I chased my tail believing that I would "get it." Unfortunately, the only thing I got at the age of 19 was a life-sentence with the chance for parole a few weeks after I turn 64 years old.
"...When I became a man I stopped doing childish things."
1 Coalition for Juvenile Justice "What Are the Implications_ of Adolescent Brain Development for Juvenile Justice?" 2006, p.3.
I have been in prison for the better part of 18 years now, and I am nothing like the stubborn, hardheaded, "youngster" that I was when I first got locked up. In fact, it is safe to say that I am no longer an adolescent trying to make sense of the world around me. I would consider myself a man who knows how to reason and be responsible.
During my incarceration, I have completed many programs and read thousands of books that have helped me develop constructive thoughts and behaviors. Those that get to know me often ask, "What are you doing in prison?" implying that I do not belong in prison. I explain in so many words, that the person I am now may not belong in prison, but it is the "big ball of idiot" that I used to be that keeps me confined.
"When you know better, you do better...Over-incarceration"
At what point does incarceration for a "delinquent adolescence" become over-incarceration?
I do not have access to the statistics, but I am confident that the numbers will show that a good percentage, over 75% or 3 out of 4, delinquent adolescents sent to prison that have served 10 years or more, are least likely to re-offended. My point, once their brain fully developed, they disposed of the thoughts and behaviors that led them to prison in the first place.
I know many men like myself who came to prison as "boys" and self-reformed into respectable men who now see criminal behavior as detestable. The positive thoughts and actions we have incorporated into our lives can be used to stop the next troubled teen from following in our footsteps, and guide us toward being productive members in our communities. The odds of us "re-offending" are not the same as the adult "career criminal." Now that we have learned better ways, we choose to do better things. So what's the point of keeping us incarcerated? In so many ways, we are being over-incarcerated.