Life post-incarceration is a gauntlet of red tape, stigmas and unfair policies that marginalize those previously incarcerated beyond our time of incarceration. The assumption that being

discharged from parole or probation would provide me a “natural” return back to normalcy is a falsehood. Community members like me face many barriers to finding well-paying jobs, buying a home, attaining quality health care, and many basic necessities that determine health. There is an expectation to contribute to society, yet we constantly face discrimination. Meanwhile, the trauma of incarceration is present, exacerbating the fear of being subjected to police harassment and surveillance, given the current climate of officer-involved shootings.

What is currently accepted as reentry functions more like a Ponzi scheme, with various “rehabilitation” programs. Too often, the custody release stipulations create unfair and short-sighted metrics of success that do not support the healing of the individual.

Law enforcement primarily police brown and black people across this nation and label us as thugs. They deploy counter-insurgency tactics that perpetuate discord in our communities, amplifying fear and division within communities of color. These tactics have been used in the media to specifically demonize formerly incarcerated individuals while importing a narrative of law enforcement vs. marginalized communities. This is especially evident for those who work to generate positive change in the community and who challenge the local political status quo.

The lack of early prevention or alternative interventions to incarceration by what is considered a rehabilitative system only exposed me to institutional violence, brutal living conditions and the moral injury of imprisonment.

What the system couldn’t do for me, I found at MILPA. I found space to understand the root causes of mass incarceration, to begin addressing the trauma of imprisonment, to learn about who I am, where I come from and where I want to go. It is this practice that has allowed me to walk responsibly with my trespasses. The most radical thing I have come to understand is the virtue of cultural healing. This happens through the power of storytelling and remembering our roots.

By providing spaces for Palabra y Plática – entrusting ourselves with community affairs and diplomacy – within the community, we create alternative opportunities toward building healthy means of communication between all stakeholders, with the goal of rethinking accountability and understanding the brutal reality of incarceration.

It is necessary to recognize that we reflect a voting block, an economic purchasing power, and that we do have the ability to build healthy multicultural families. To build them, we need healing, not continuous cycles of punishment.

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