After hearing about Kalief Browder, the young man who hung himself due to being unable to cope with life after being put in solitary confinement, abused, and tortured at Rikers Island. And, who was never convicted for the crime he was arrested for, which was the theft of a back pack.
After hearing the debate over whether or not new juvenile facilities are needed, which would force teens to be targeted to fill the jails up, versus the horrible alternative of housing under aged children with adult offenders.
I have to say that the death of Sandra Bland, is one of my biggest fears come to life regarding the conditions that prisoners face, and the standard of training that law enforcement adheres to. If you haven’t heard by now this young woman was pulled over for making an illegal traffic turn, which somehow led to her being held on the ground while getting her head banged into it, then being locked up in jail cell for 3 days where her life ended.
Initially they called it death by asphyxiation, but due to the bruises on her body, coupled with the fact that she had just landed her dream job, it makes no sense at all. And, if someone hadn’t caught her arrest on their cell phone we probably wouldn’t have known about this at all. No one is buying the suicide accusations, and I am ecstatic about it.
Here is how it really hits home for me. Often when there are incidents involving mistreatment from police officers and African Americans, we don’t have to wait long before a video is released having the victim caught in some type of dubious activity, and we also don’t have to wait long until any prior criminal activity is brought to the surface. No matter how wrong the act was towards them, the media intentionally plants information about their past in an attempt to lessen the amount of compassion the public would have for them. And, if you never had a criminal past, this strategy often works in creating indifference towards the victim.
But Sandra Bland was educated, apart of a sorority, and was employed. She even cared enough about the state of racial matters in America to post her views publicly. I am in no way saying that her death matters more because of her accolades, but it does allow for her tragedy to not be as quickly dismissed as the others have been. And, it is a sad reminder you can do everything right, and still get treated completely wrong in this country. Pants hanging low, and a drug past is not and never has been needed for abuse to happen by the hands of law enforcement in America.
The reason why her story and others like it are falling on deaf ears is because for far too long many of us have decided to turn our backs on prisoners, and have quieted our efforts to demand law enforcement reform which is long over due. With all of our money, influence, spiritual leaders, etc. we still don’t care about these issues. Are we numb to it? We all have friends, cousins, siblings, and parents who have lived in a prison. Just why we don’t care about this issue is beyond me.
Sandra reminds me of myself. She had a bright smile, just started twisting her hair to wear it naturally, and was highly opinionated on many issues, especially police brutality. Except, she was braver than me. She took a road trip for a job interview that she got, and as a result this is what happened.
It only takes one moment for someone to think your life isn’t worth much, decide to rough you up, lock you up, and put you away in a cell to interact with criminals and prison law enforcement for everything to change. Whether death or suicide, the biggest horror to this story is that it all could have been avoided.
Rachel Bryant Lundy