Mass Incarceration. The New Jim Crow. The War on Drugs. Thanks to Professor Michelle Alexander these phrases are now intimately linked in the minds of social justice advocates and faith leaders as we begin a critical struggle for fairness, justice and human rights in the criminal courts, police precincts and prisons of America. The Next Movement is convinced that America can do better, and that the majority of Americans would want us to do better, if they knew the truth. The truth about systemic incarceration, structural second class status, completely uneven law enforcement practices, oppressive and selectively enforced laws that is filling the prisons of America.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

From The Inside: Worm's Story

Last week we introduced Andre "Dre" Patterson, a resident in Stateville Correctional Center, and a volunteer writer for The Next Movement's blog. The first series of articles will be focusing on various crossroads . . . intersection points where a better decision could have led to an entirely different future. Here's . . .

Worm's Story

Nobody told him he wasn’t supposed to. That was the mindset of twelve year old Willie or “Worm”, the first time he got high. Even if someone had told him “just say no,” it probably would have gone over the cornrows on his head atop his four foot tall body. Raised in the land of vacant lots and dope spots, which is the west side of Chicago; Worm’s natural reaction was to do as he saw, not as he was told.

When Worm was eight, his mother and uncles used to throw raucous card parties with all of the neighborhood super-heroes: gangsters and hustlers. They would send little Worm back and forth to the store and have him light their squares (cigarettes) and joints. So, when he was twelve and one of his friends passed him a blunt and told him to light it, Worm did so like he had been there before.

During these same social gatherings, his mom would give him beer and put Worm in a circle of family and friends to sing and dance. Times like these inspired Worm to want to be a rapper and comedian.  He associated the weed and alcohol with fun and celebration. By the time Worm was fifteen, he was smoking and drinking every day.

With a father who lived in the suburbs, who he only saw when he got in trouble, Worm bonded with his step-dad; a small business owner and a well-known drug dealer.  His step-dad gave him a small amount of drugs to sell so Worm could buy clothes and maintain his habits. Having been inducted into street culture by his uncles when he was big enough to sit on a watermelon and break it, this was a natural transition for Worm.

In an attempt to pull her son from the tumultuous waters he had dived into, Worm’s mom sent him away to boot camp, where she hoped he would finish his education and learn discipline. It was just a vacation for Worm. When he completed the program, Worm came back home to the same poverty and hopelessness he had left. The weed he smoked to see the silver lining of the gray cloud over his environment would evolve into something more severe.

One day, a hail of gunfire parted a crowd that Worm was congregated in, causing them to duck in panic, behind parked cars and porch steps. When the shots let up, two of Worm’s closest friends lay on the unforgiving concrete, bleeding to death. That night, an angry and saddened Worm tried a drug that he had been shielded from up to this point. One of his homies, also grieving from the day’s mad drama, lit up a blunt laced with PCP, called shock. “Let me hit that shock,” a dejected Worm demanded. That first hit would consummate a long relationship between Worm and shock, that would only end when he was charged with first-degree murder, five years later.

Monday, November 11, 2013

From The Inside: Introducing Andre "Dre" Patterson


As we work to end the epidemic of mass incarceration in America one of our
challenges to to present the human side of this travesty. This can often be seen in the broken families, the struggling children, the collective misery of the communities from which men, women and children are drawn into our criminal (in)justice system.

Of course these are not all angels of misfortune. Of course human choice, personal decisions, often play a major role in determining who will populate the jails and prisons of America. And yes, of course, a stacked deck works to funnel many promising lives into permanent second class citizenship, if they are luck, or if not, a near permanent residence in one of our prisons.

Several months ago, one of our members, Ibi Cole, introduced me to a young man that resides in Stateville, a maximum security prison on the outskirts of Chicagoland. Andre is one of those promising lives that has taken up permanent residence in our prisons. Intelligent, articulate, and a gifted writer, he wanted to know if he could contribute to our fight against mass incarceration . . . even from behind bars.

Our conversations, passed through communications that Ibi facilitated, have resulted in this first series of blogs From the Inside. I've asked Andre to talk with/interview the men he shares Stateville with, focusing particularly on the "forks in the road" that led to their imprisonment. I am prayerful that each story/article will move someone's heart as we recognize our own friends, family and ourselves: But for the grace of God go I . . .

Our goal is to share a new story every other week or so for the next several months, with the first story beginning November 18th. 

Lastly, please take a few moments to provide feedback on the stories. You can comment on the blog itself, or on the various Facebook pages that we will be linking to. That said, let me introduce you to Andre:

A luta continua

Daryle Brown

My name is Andre Patterson, known to loved ones as, simply, “Dre.” I graduated from Evanston Township High School in 1997; I was an average student, with above average potential.  The northern suburbs of Evanston are not the most dangerous or degraded environments to grow up in.  But, viewing the mostly green landscape from the shadows of insecurity, personal pain and alcoholism, it appeared dark and decrepit.
Lacking the courage and tools to conquer my demons, I made some bad decisions, that lead to a sixty-year sentence in the Illinois Department of Corrections.  My cowardice has broken many lives, some of which I may never be able to piece together again.  But I would like to try… 
I’m going to tell you stories of other men, incarcerated like me, whose demons have manifested through addiction.  Maybe their lives and the lives they’ve affected through their actions could have turned out differently… if these addictions were viewed in a different light.