It’s Been Going on for a Long Time

Published date01 May 2022
Author Richa
Date01 May 2022
Journal of Contemporary Criminal Justice
2022, Vol. 38(2) 228 –231
© The Author(s) 2022
Article reuse guidelines:
DOI: 10.1177/10439862221096737
It’s Been Going on for
a Long Time
What follows happened a long time ago, but some things, in their essence, don’t
My first incarceration, age 18, was for the “crime” of crossing a street between
intersections. I was almost certainly targeted because of my beard and long hair -
unusual at the time. The judge muttered a derogatory comment about my looks before
declaring a $25 fine, then sentenced me to five days in the Hennepin County
(Minnesota) Workhouse when I declined to pay the fine.
Told at the workhouse that I would have to “work” as well as shave, and unwilling
to do either, they put me in solitary confinement. Given a thin pair of pants, a T-shirt,
and a thin pair of socks, they opened a window right across from the cell. The tempera-
ture that week was typically in the double digits below zero. Meals were two slices of
white bread and a glass of water twice a day, except a “full” meal on the third day. I
only got that after reminding them that a full meal at least every three days was required
by law. Not that such knowledge really helped me - the meal was so bad that I was
nauseated after eating about half of it.
Nobody ever beat me or otherwise physically molested me throughout this process.
But the whole thing felt violent to me. Upon release I took out my anger by purposely
committing the same “crime” several times on the walk back to my apartment.
I experienced greater violence during a two-year incarceration for, ironically, a
crime of overt nonviolence - refusal to participate in the mass murder our government
was perpetrating at the time in Vietnam. It started the first night when my cellmate in
the Baltimore City Jail raped me. Guards clearly knew what was going on, but did
When they transferred me to federal prison they forcefully cut my hair and beard.
They continued to do so for many months until a fast in combination with some out-
side pressure induced them to stop.
After first spending about two weeks in a youth prison they sent me to Lewisburg
Federal Penitentiary, where I did most of my time. They immediately put me in the
“hole”, in fact in one of the two most secure cells in the prison. After a few days there
I wanted to obliterate consciousness and started to beat my head against the wall. But
I managed to stop, and resolved that I would do better.
1096737CCJXXX10.1177/10439862221096737Journal of Contemporary Criminal JusticeRicha

To continue reading

Request your trial

VLEX uses login cookies to provide you with a better browsing experience. If you click on 'Accept' or continue browsing this site we consider that you accept our cookie policy. ACCEPT