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Blog Archive - November 03, 2007 "A Beginning"

I started this without realizing I've not given any background info on myself and the situation, so that's what I'll start doing now.  Let me ask you something, first.  How many people know or even care about what happens behind prison walls unless they've experienced it, or have loved ones in prison?

The U.S. has the highest incarceration rate of any country in the world.  Over 2 million are doing time in U.S. prisons or jails, and over 4.5 million are on parole, probation, under house arrest, or sitting in jail waiting to go to trial.  The Mississippi State Penitentiary at Parchman, where I'm housed, currently holds an average of 4,500 prisoners.  Think about that for a moment.

The problem arises not from the fact that large numbers of U.S. citizens are incarcerated, but from the lack of rehabilitation that they receive.  The question is: By accident, or by design?  You've just caught a glimpse of the prison industrial complex.  Recidivism, the lack of education and rehabilitation, high incarceration rates - these are merely a few symptoms of the true sickness.

In 1998, one month after my 16th birthday, I was charged with homicide (and a grocer's list of other crimes tacked on for good measure) and began experiencing our justice system firsthand.  Lies, rumors, propaganda, threats against my family, death threats against me, assaults, etc.  All this by those sworn to "protect and serve" . . . And that was before I had to deal with any attorneys.

I was sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole, plus a few more years in case the life sentence wasn't enough, and by August of 1998 I had officially entered the Mississippi Department of Corrections.  I was processed in at CMCF in Rankin County, and within weeks I was on a bus bound for Parchman.

Ever seen The Chamber, based on the novel by John Grisham?  The place it shows during visitation and where the gas chamber is?  That's Unit 17, here at Parchman.  That's where I started doing time here on the Farm.

Off the main road, down a long gravel drive and surrounded by rusty fence and razor wire, with four dilapidated towers - one at each corner - Unit 17 was a good example of overall conditions here at Parchman.  Aside from how small it is, one of the first things you notice is what looks like a slender smoke stack or flue rising out of the structure to tower above the Unit.  The flue connects directly to the gas chamber, which the officers who were transporting us were so kind to point out.  By 1998 Unit 17 wasn't used to house death row prisoners anymore because Unit 32 had already been built, though they still carry out all executions for Mississippi there at Unit 17.

That was my introduction to life at Parchman.  After spending the day chained up on a bus, being strip-searched a couple times, and having everything I owned (which all fit in a pillowcase) sifted through and treated like garbage, I was put in a cell that hadn't been cleaned and had nothing to it clean with.  The cell had no light or hot water, was infested with insects and had only a bare metal rack to lay on - no mattress and not even a blanket to lay on.  I tell you this because so many people have misconceptions of prison.  These people who are being treated like animals will one day be your neighbors, your gardener, your mechanic, the guy who picks up your garbage.  Not everyone can turn the other cheek, and some of these people are highly pissed.  You need to know what's happening behind prison walls.
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Juveniles should not be treated as adults, charged as adults or be subjected to adult sentences. Juveniles should never, ever go to Parchman Farm. Never. There is no reason to treat anyone this way, especially children. Ever. Yes, the criminal justice system is corrupt. The public defender system is broken. It's a tribute to you, that you have survived. Kids in adult prison is wrong and is cruel. Children surviving in adult prisons or any prisons for that matter are like orphans surviving in a Warsaw ghetto. All wrong. Apparently when you were convicted, Walnut Grove did not exist, or you would have ended up in that cesspool of violence. I don't know which is worse. I hope and pray you get some relief under Miller.

And yes Steven, people do care. I care very much what we do to our fellow human beings. It really crushes to me to my core to know what is going on with the prison industry in this country. A life can't be judged by one act. That one act isn't a reason for inhumanity toward man. It's just an excuse. I think a lot of people care and that is how juvenile justice advocacy has popped up. Many of these folks including me never had anyone in prison or had any known experience with it. I do now, of course, as I've taken on a case and have been grudgingly exposed to all the horrendous inhumanity. No one is garbage. EVERYONE has worth.

Thank you for your words. We will pass your message along to Steven and know he'll appreciate it, as we appreciate all that you do. We follow your blog as well, the content is very informative and shows that you really care about juvenile justice issues.
Steven was housed at Walnut Grove Youth Correctional Facility for 7 months when it first opened up in 2001. It had its positive and negative aspects as all prisons do, but had not deteriorated to the point it declined to later. If you are interested, we are about to post some info about the cases being decided in Mississippi following the "Miller" ruling and how it is being interpreted by Mississippi courts. Again, thank you for all that you do and for all the information you share concerning juvenile justice.

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About Me

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Steven Farris is a prisoner who has been incarcerated since a month after his 16th birthday in 1998. Currently serving a life sentence without the possibility for parole, he is seeking to educate the public about the true nature of prison and the widespread and negative effects of the prison industrial complex. Steven has worked with both the National Prison Project of the ACLU, as well as the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund in furthering this effort.

You can contact him directly at:
Steven Farris #R5580
P.O. Box 1889
Woodville, MS 39669-1889

Check out my other blog . . .


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