"Be Happy" | FAMM

“Be Happy”

I was told to “be happy” by a guard today. I’m in prison for a crime that isn’t a jailable offense in any other democratic nation. But for which I received twelve years. A sentence that is five times longer than it would have been fifteen years ago because of “tough on crime” politicians who see prison as the first, last, and only option. A crime written so harshly that the legal scholars describe it as having “no valid defense” and the sentencing guidelines as “draconian” and contrary to well-established data and research. A crime which is classified by the BOP as a public safety issue, but for which there is no specific victim and no evidence of contact with another human being. A crime for which the punishment includes decades, if not a lifetime, of additional restrictions and hardships even though the evidence of recidivism is LOW. I was told to “be happy.”

After being stripped of everything and left to watch the people I love struggle. To watch, without any means of helping, as my wife raises our children alone and tries to provide them with some sense of normalcy. To watch my daughters grow up without a father in their lives. To watch, helplessly, as they love and support me, knowing it makes no difference to the “justice system.”

I was told to “be happy.”

As I sit here, day after day, with no means to improve my situation or prove that I am safe to release. No prospect of work, action, or behavior that could lessen the time I’ll serve. No compassion. No redemption. No interest in even considering the possibility. Only punishment and retribution. Each day more frustrating and pointless than the last. Buried in regret with no opportunity to dig my way out.

I was told to “be happy.”

As I sit here surrounded by thugs, dealers, and bullies whose only goal is to return to their old lives and show the feds that they won’t be changed. As I listen to these men share strategies and tactics to improve their “craft” and expand their network, with like-minded criminals.

I was told to “be happy.”

As I experience a system that is clearly broken. As I hear the term “correction” used when “archive” and “punish” are more accurate. As I hear “education” and “release preparation” used to describe “classes” taught by inmates with no aptitude or relevant experience and for which a couple of stamps can purchase proof of completion. As I hear the term “good time” used to describe “time off” that can only be lost, never gained. Not an opportunity but a threat.

I was told to “be happy.”

As I try to prevent this “life” from becoming my new normal. Before I was sent here, happy was normal.

I will not “be happy” here. — Eric S.

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