I grew up a mile away from a compound of three prisons. My parents both volunteered there, teaching classes and acting as mentors. One year, they brought me to a Christmas service in the gymnasium of one of the prisons. I’d already learned about the devastating, systematic racism and injustice that has wrongfully sent so many to prison. In that fluorescent-lit gymnasium, with weight machines along the walls, I watched men in jumpsuits reunited, for a couple of hours, with their families, who had come far and wore their best clothes. We sang hymns and prayed. I listened to a man tell his wife that he’d fallen last week in the yard and hurt his hip, but that he’d be alright. 

There are too many people in prison in America. This poem is about them.

Abigail Carney is from Grafton, Ohio. Her school bus passed by the prisons every morning but her teachers never talked about them. Send her an email at abigail.v.carney@gmail.com.

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