By Richard Johnson, Folsom State Prison
Editor’s note: Post publisher Paul Cobb attended Richard Johnson’s release hearing, who had served 29 years in prison. His release date was denied even though he had served his full sentence. His attorney Dan Siegel has filed an appeal. After reading his letters and manuscripts, Cobb offered Johnson a column with the Post News Group, suggesting that he begin with answering the question, “What do you see as an opportunity for you to utilize the Post as a partner to inspire our readers to pay closer attention to the needs, voices and concerns of those who are incarcerated?”
First, I want to thank the Post News Group/El Mundo for offering me the opportunity to communicate with the readers and especially the faith-based congregations that read the newspapers and the website. I also want to thank Mr. Paul Cobb, who testified in court on my behalf, for giving me a space to speak.
I truly believe this column will allow me to bring a much needed fresh look into the prison system that is failing and needs to rebuild to truly rehabilitate. I want to help spread the truth about prisoners’ conditions.
Working in conjunction with the Post and organizations that are dedicated to improving our prisons, I hope to shed light on the despicable state of affairs facing men and women of every race who come from communities with unattended issues that, in most instances, haven’t been addressed. And for many, the likelihood of extended imprisonment has intensified their troubles.
Through bringing attention to the helpless entombed and dysfunctional system that promotes the mental and physical attrition of prisoners, the Post will be on the right side of history, leading the charge of not only information, but real practical solutions that can be implemented to address the real genuine problem, instead of meaningless inquiries that generate ineffective and ridiculous answers.
This isn’t to imply that other concerned outlets haven’t been helpful in the past. On the contrary, however, the more attention given to the Prison Industry Complex, the less the complex will be able to ignore the truth as the community will be watching their every move.
It’s through communication that the Post and similarly situated conduits will be able to bring the walls of deceit, corruption and abuse down. It’s indefensible what is happening to those loved ones trapped in prison. Unless change is brought to the horror that is the heartbeat of prison life, the probability of that person returning to the community in a disturbed state will be very likely without some form of rectification.
I hope the forward progressive thinking that the Oakland Post can convey is to highlight the grim disservice to not only prisoners, but also to the constituents whose tax dollars pay for the operations of these maligned institutions. Through this column, I hope the Post can be the megaphone for the incarcerated who are being denied a medium to express their concerns to the public.
I look for the Post to resonate the signal that the gig is up and change is a must and unavoidable.
The gravity of the neglect is too immense and heinous to allow it to go unchecked and unaddressed. It seems to some close observers that prisons have moved from criminal punishment to persecution. And until this observation is made obvious to Post readers and people at large, it will continue.