For many years I worked to reduce incarceration rates and eliminate the most harsh and inhumane aspects of imprisonment. This work is difficult, tireless, confusing, intensely rewarding, and I truly hope there is a day in my lifetime when the current system of mass incarceration is seriously restructured and the prison population drastically reduced.

It is estimated that over 1 Billion people on parole are likely to be re-incarcerated and each year approximately half a million people are released from prison and sent back into communities. 40% of the millions of people currently incarcerated in the United States have not been convicted of a crime and thousands of incarcerated juveniles are there for things like “running away, truancy, and incorrigibility.”

Tiffany Williams’ poem Day 7 spoke to me. Her ability to keep the feeling of vulnerability and an urgent desire to protect someone comes through delicately at first, and then fiercely. The inability to know what comes of this missing youngster pervading the end, the reason for the visit by the police only slightly illuding the reader, but knowing that things had gone very wrong despite people giving their best effort.

In the notes on the poem, Williams says that one of the young people that inspired the poem was a young woman ‘in the system’ who had ran away. That happens so often, and can be difficult for some people to understand – Williams in her poem clearly understands how those who have gone uncared for can eventually resist care, even seeing it as a trap, because it is foreign. That the department of human services ultimately offers very few alternatives to abuse and neglect so that the juvenile incarceration system and juvenile homeless rates have been growing. A lifetime within a community familiar with prison life can be difficult to cycle out of, to stop replicating, and unlike any movie you may see with a baseball wielding principal or sensitive writer, rarely does the brief appearance of a person in ones life completely alter that life’s course. A progression out of a world of illegality and violence takes time, Williams’ poem grasps this. The poem also grasps that sometimes, you try all you can, and it changes nothing. That sometimes things simply are how they shall be.

 

Read all of Tiffany Williams’ poems Day 7 at The 5-2 Crime Poetry Weekly 

 

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