Op-Ed: Youth in the Trenches


When I was a youth, I heard stories about the rites of passage in connection with prison life and how one’s manhood was tested on a daily basis. These stories told of how one had to fight, sometimes to the death, over small infractions that would be seen as minor slights outside of prison.


Nowadays, these stories of awe and fear are being repeated to today’s youth who are also caught in this cycle of incarceration. Instead of hearing from those in their community who have made it out to attend college, their conversations and understandings are fixated on how much jail time some received.


My statistical research shows that only 20-25 percent of our youth make it to the college level. And, what is most alarming about these statistics is that many of our children are earmarked and predestined for prison terms, or worse yet, being cut down by a hail of life-destroying bullets because for them, prison has become a generational expectation.


Even though these youth have committed some criminal acts, we, too, must recognize that we have failed in our responsibilities as mothers, fathers, mentors teachers and guardians because we should lead them in the correct direction.


I applaud the individuals, community groups, churches and those recently recognized as “Unsung Heroes” who are working so hard to save some of our youth from prison.


And, even though there’s no miracle design for prevention, there are some fundamental actions that can be undertaken to halt, or at least slow down, this procession of repetitious imprisonment of our youth.


Imprisonment is referred to as being “in the trenches” and is the most that they can anticipate without proper intervention. Too many families are plagued by also being in the trenches.


As sincere as some may be, they need to turn our caring into actions that produce sound results, not empathy or sympathy.


Being victimized by the trenches is deplorable, but what’s worse is being without the help needed to improve the situation.


We can’t necessarily change the reality of being imprisoned, but we can improve the bad to becoming good or better. Had it not been for people who cared for me my state of “badness” would have remained unchanged.


Nowadays, especially during this season of observance of sacred holidays, I can thank God for my daily goodness. I am doing better. My faith and community support has helped to improve my condition.


Happy Holidays.


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