Orientation – Anthony “The Endurer” Briscoe
A very talented buddy of mine, Anthony Briscoe, shared his experience about his “orientation” at the Cook County Jail on 26th & California. This is a firsthand view of the injustice system.
As I made my way to 26th & California a feeling overwhelmed me. I was going on my own accord. I am a free man. I don’t have to walk in a straight line, put my shoulders on the wall or wear orange jumpsuits that read something along the lines of “property of D.O.C”. As we made our way through the facility the chaplain told us that he had seen a guy get killed when a block lit up (when a riot breaks out) and he was only in for a traffic violation. I thought, wow, we will put a person with a traffic violation in the same cell with a person that just murdered, raped and assaulted someone. This has been the norm at Cook County for years.
Walking alone the stone cold concretes floors, stone stairs and walls I had a flashback from childhood. The County Jail reminded me of my time in the projects of Ida B. Wells and the Stateway Gardens housing facilities. The parallelism and comparisons are exactly the same. There were windows present, but this time
windows where the eyes of some of the “Detainees” that I connected with briefly. Through those windows I could see bitterness, rejection, a sense of belonging, despair, hopelessness and a brief shot at redemption. Though I’m sure there were many diverse ethnicities in the confines of the County Jail, the only ones I saw/noticed were Negro and Latino. The lines that filled the outside gates were full of women with babies and mothers clinging to the last bit of hope they had for their sons/daughters/husbands. This is the shame of America. It is the shame of the failure of parents. It is the shame of a government that arrests parents for being parents and enforcing discipline in their homes. It is the shame of those that just chose to walk along the lines of immorality and injustice. This is the new America that is the same old America. We can cross the seas into a foreign country, invade two countries at one time while simultaneously doing back door operations in other parts of the world but we can’t take care of our own people. We can spend millions on building prisons but debate about how much money we’ll put forth for education. We’ll spend 465 millions dollars to renovate a football stadium but turn around and say, we don’t have enough money to pay our teachers a starting salary of $50,000. Yes America, we are our brothers keepers but it seems that the citizens are Able and the system is Cain.
The deeper part of this journey was when I had to use the restroom. I was taken to an area, where the inmates were on the other end of the passageway. As I walked into the restroom a correctional officer said, “Sir, this is a bathroom for inmates, we have a much cleaner facility for you”. I told him I was fine but I did get to see why rehab is not a priority for “Detainees”. After I used the restroom I went to wash my hands but the water didn’t come out of the faucet, it slowly leaked, not even visible to the human eye, and ran down the bottom portion of the sink. No big deal right? I mean, they are only “Detainees”. But, my thought is this, if this is how they are treated in a restroom, which should be seemingly sanitary (and it was in appearance), but if “Detainees” can’t even wash his hands properly, what type of other little things that we take for granted are not even available to them. I agree that a prisoner is a prisoner, but that doesn’t make them any less human. It’s no wonder why the FEDS said Cook County is one of the worse in the country. “Detainees” is the name they are given. Some are detained until they reached their sentencing, some are detained as a punishment for withholding information impeding an investigation and as the gentleman I mentioned above, some are detained for reasons that are so small it’s a waste of taxpayer dollars and further
perpetuates a hostile environment for non-violent offenders.
I was pleased because I was able to talk to a detainee that was just released and a mother that had come to pick up her 29 year old daughter. The detainee needed directions on how to get back home but said he was through coming back here. In my life I’d heard that often from my mother that found herself rotating in and out of County and State Penitentiaries’ for over 30 years of her 55 year old life. Yet, it was still good to
know that he had a ray of hope for himself and a ray of hope that the daughter, of the woman I spoke with, would finally turn her life around. The correctional officers that I met where courteous and professional and showed a softer side that they usually have to when face to face with other detainees. In their windows I could see a relief from the macho persona, that male and female officers alike have to transform into when they are going through “Orientation” every day.
The church has a role to play and that’s why many pastors had their people out. These are societies rejects that won’t grant them much of a second chance if any to be normal. During this time, it’s great to know that in true Christianity, forgiveness is always willing to take what society made and turn it into what God created.