Social Justice Poetry

incarceration poems

Criminal Injustice – A Tribute to Kalief Browder | A Social Justice Poem by Leah Monde

They stopped me
Turned me around and pat me down, hands on the hood of the car
Thick, menacing hands. Baton in between my legs
They told me to come with them and then I could go home.
I never went home that day.
Interrogation. Small cement stuffy room
Several men yelling. Spit in my face.
I didn’t do anything!
I don’t know!
I’m innocent!
Then came the third step in breaking me down, the strip search, the uniform
Dry, lonely cells.
Where is my Mom?
What’s going to happen?
Scared out of my mind.
These peers don’t even have my back.
It’s all about the Bloods, the Latin Kings
All this rage
Shouldn’t we be on the same team?
They told me that I could have gotten out on bail
Avoided the hellhole.
But my Mama makes minimum wage
And couldn’t afford the $3000 bail
So I rot in that hell for 33 months
Almost two years of which in the hole
The Shu
I was never a bad kid, just did my best tried my hardest
But their hatred drove me to hate myself
Rage turned inward
I even told them I wanted to end my life and all I got in return was a slap in the goddamned face.
No mental health care
Five times I tried to end my life
Then one day, unexplainably I was set free.
Charges dropped
No apologies for the trauma, the wasted years.
Simply kicked to the curb in Queens with a one-way metro card.
I thought it would be better when I was home but it turned out to be worse on another level.
So isolated, existing in a haze.
Criminal record – no one takes you seriously. What is a man to do?
What is a man to do?
You failed me.
I didn’t fail myself, I tried I stuck to my convictions.
And the world spit in my face.
I am sorry Mama, but I can’t take this pain anymore. Goodbye.

Step into My Shoes | A Social Justice Poem by Marsha Owens

…he writes on the cell floor,
all to say, “tread on me
then hear
my whisper
caress this cell,
then feel my heart
beat, forgotten
kids wrapped in razor
wire in this pipeline
from school to prison
scream into the night.”

He scribbles “I’m scared,”
then writes his story entitled
“The End.”

(Art 180 in Richmond, Virginia encourages incarcerated youth to find expression through the arts. Virginia refers more youth to law enforcement than any other state. NPR News, 2016)

Innocent in Jail | A Social Justice Poem by John Kaniecki

I know every crack in the ceiling
I ain’t just feeling blue
I am the ocean
I am the sea
I am a man
Longing to be free

The system ain’t blind
It was meant to bind

Political oppression
That is the lesson
That the darker your skin
The greater your sin
And if you don’t wanna serve the man
And you ain’t hip to the plan
Then damn
Your soul
They’ll prove whose in control

See the country’s justice system fail
A common tale
Innocent in jail

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