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.

Monday, February 10, 2014

From the Inside: Chris' Story

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

Chris' Story

The middle-class suburb of Mundelein (where the employment rate is high, and violent crimes were minimal to non-existent) has a greasy underbelly.  This mostly White and Hispanic town is home to an affluent drug culture.  The notorious Mexican Mafia has a strong hold on the cocaine trade, and kids can get ahold of any drug on the spectrum; from prescription pills to acid.  With such easy access, you can become an addict, a dealer, or both early on--the user and the used.

This was the breeding ground for Chris; a lanky, pale-skinned, anti-social kid, with natural leadership skills.  He stayed in a one story, five-bedroom house with his mother, younger sister and older brother, who was in and out of jail.  His brother was deeply entrenched in Mundelein’s drug scene, a user and one of the used.  This is where Chris took his example from; with a father in Tennessee, and mother that worked days and went to school at night, he was left to figure things out on his own. 

He was also left to deal with the memory of something horrible he had done when he was ten.  “It jarred me awake every morning, like the annoying beep of an alarm clock.  The same nightmare from something that I did when I was too young to know better.  At least that’s what family told me.  But I had a different narrative of the events.  What I did, chased my conscience, so I chased it away with vodka and cocaine.” 

When he was eleven, Chris started down a dark road that he mistook for an escape route, when he began smoking marijuana.  At thirteen, he added alcohol to an everyday weed habit.  He began a rapid plunge to the bottom when at fourteen, he was introduced to cocaine.  This would be the ultimate escape from his conscience that he was looking for.

At fifteen, Chris checked into a thirty-day rehab to avoid jail time for a series of under-age drinking and possession arrests.  While in the facility, he had a brief moment of clarity and attempted to get clean.  But the moment passed when he couldn’t envision the future sober.  Chris continued to get high in rehab.

Throughout all of this, Chris tried to stay in school, while residing in his chemically altered universe.  But, in his fourth year of high school, totally disengaged with education, he dropped out.  Around this time, Chris and some friends started burglarizing known drug houses. 

Usually, nobody was home.  But one day, someone surprised Chris and his crew and things got out of hand.  Chris was only eighteen when he came to jail charged with a home invasion & murder.