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
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.