By Folami Irvine
An elder told me this story once. One day at an auto manufacturer in Detroit, a guy drove his car up and said “I just purchased this car and it’s not working!” All the top men came down to check it out, the engine, the wiring, the radiator, but they couldn’t figure out what was wrong. Finally, they turned to Mr. Willie, an African American man with little education who had a knack for cars. They said “Mr. Willie, something’s not right with this car but we checked everything! What’s the matter?” He got in the car, turned the ignition and the gas pan-el needle was on “E”. “This car ain’t got no gas in it!”
Sometimes it’s just common sense.
During this past year, we’ve lost a lot of lives. The root of this problem is the big bad fraud, Governor Wolf. He definitely doesn’t care about people. He is able to release over 1,000 incarcerated citizens through reprieve and commutation - people who are ill or vulnerable to illness considering our prisons are overcrowded, poorly cleaned, and lack proper quality healthcare.
Governor Wolf had commutation applications sitting on his desk, but because he didn’t move them fast enough. And Bruce Norris died from COVID in the meantime. He’s able to release them but he’s made the choice not to. I can only as-sume it’s because he does not care about our incarcerated family members or the families who are suffering from his lack of action.
We’ve lost a lot of loved ones. But to someone like Governor Wolf, our pain is probably insignificant. He doesn’t have family members in prison dying of COVID. But we do, our loved ones are dying. Not because of the crime they supposedly committed, but because of the lack of COVID precautions. Due to overcrowding and guards coming in out of the prisons getting them sick, everyone is at risk. It’s chemical warfare. Many guards come into these prisons without masks, yet families are told WE can’t come visit because we might carry the virus.
Governor Wolf is blind to the struggles of real people. His wealth allows him to feel invincible and hide behind a veil of privilege. Which is ironic considering that a portion of the wealth he benefits from is directly sourced from private prisons and similar institutions that are actively endangering our families lives.
We get caught up in a lot of data and numbers. I want to deal with the basics of life for a minute. There’s so much emphasis on “evidence-based,” but at the end of the day, some things are beyond evidence. In the hood, we don’t just see what’s “evidence-based,” we see the real deal. We see our family members dying, we see that the GUARDS are bringing this virus into the prison. And we see that politicians like Wolf don’t seem to care.
We’re tired of “evidence-based.” We’re dealing with raw, with real “it is what it is” basic outcome. And the outcome is detrimental when dealing with COVID. The outcome is bad for the general population out here. But for those incarcerated, it’s an atrocity. There are so many family members at HRC, alone, that have lost someone.
Governor Wolf finally signed 13 commutations. That’s not enough. When there’s a possibility to get people out who are ill or vulnerable or have done 30, 40, 50 years, he should do it. Governor Wolf, take the opportunity to reform your past transgressions and do the right thing. Because while we continue to lose so many people like Bruce Norris, all you had to do was LIFT YOUR FINGER and empathize with the citizens who you are supposed to serve.
Governor Wolf, this is year 5. Your karma’s coming. Do the right thing – it’s common sense.