Post by Steve Nelson
Leon Perry is currently incarcerated at Minnesota Correctional Facility – Stillwater, serving a life sentence. He sent this to Amicus after he was approached by Macalester College student Stefan Aune as part of an effort to encourage inmates to offer their perspectives for the benefit of those of us fortunate enough to be outside.
Losing Freedoms: One’s Quest for Liberation
By Leon Perry
Incarceration forces a person to reflect on the loss of freedoms once taken for granted.
The Freedom to Choose: The God-given freedom to choose is the one I’d say I miss the most. Prison has a way of making your mind up for you. You’d be considered the fool to sit back and try to contemplate your next move, especially if it’s outside the realm of what’s going on inside the walls. You might find a few strands of freedom and try not to allow anyone, let alone the system, take them away. Then you watch them slip through your fingers, making you question if you ever had a tight enough grip on them in the first place.
The Freedom to Dream: Not being able to chase one’s dreams is as close to dead as I can imagine. I see newly incarcerated men staring through bars, confused, wondering how they allowed the fortunes of life to lead them here. As young men, we still make plans for life after release, but after a decade, those plans seem unrealistic. Now imagine what 15 years or even two decades can do to a person’s morale.
The Freedom to Celebrate: The freedom to celebrate with my children has been taken from me. Incarceration has caused me to miss babies’ first steps and teen’s high school graduations. Birthdays and even Christmas celebrations have become a thing of the past. The freedom to pay my last regards to a loved one or good friend is no more.
The Freedom to be an Individual: Incarceration has a way of making even the strongest of men compromise so much of what they may have stood for. You’re no longer a name but a number. You can try to walk around as if this place has no affect on you, but truth be told, prison has a way of stealing a person’s identity completely away from them. I’ve also found that my freedom to defend myself has been taken away. To stand up for myself comes only with consequence. So, do you stand up and be a man or risk having your manhood malevolently choked out of you? I guess it’s up to the individual.
The Freedom to Seek Something More: You search for ways to find meaning and purpose, only to find that in your attempts to reach out for help, you’ve lost your voice. You’ve had so little for so long, that you no longer even know what it might take for you to be happy, let alone content. And if you do know what it would take, articulating it to the ones who could possibly help you can be close to impossible. When you haven’t had the chance to network or socialize for so long, you can become nervous and reluctant to even speak in front of anyone other than inmates.
These things just scratch the surface of what freedoms are lost upon coming to prison. Where there is no vision, the people perish. Where there is no freedom, the people lose their desire to be free. If you hold the key to liberation, once you’re free, I charge you to take the time to help untie the next man.