Empty seats

Second of a three-part column

MSR Editorial


By Kevin Reese

Contributing Writer

Last week the columnist wrote: On February 7 and 8, 2014 there was a Black History month celebration here at Lino Lakes Correctional Facility where I am currently housed. It was an amazing two-day event filled with heavyweight speakers, soulful music, topped with deep and rich history lessons… Everything was in its place except for one thing. The elephant in the room: all of the empty seats.


What I felt those two days I wish I could have shared with every brother in the world, but when I looked around to share it with the 250 seats that were in the building I was hit with a frightening picture of an overwhelmingly mixed crowd, but also a lot of empty seats.

My first thought was, “Good! All of the brothers must have been released and they are home making contributions to their homes and to the community.” Unfortunately, that was deflated  later that evening when I witnessed brothers parade through the chow hall by the hundreds for their state issue of processed meat, stale bread, and watered down Kool Aid.

So I asked everyone that I knew, “Where were you?” and I got explanations ranging everywhere from “I stayed back to use the phone,” to “Forget Black history stuff. I don’t want to hear that,” or “Coming there is not going to put money in my pocket.” I couldn’t believe they chose not to come to a celebration about them. I went on to simply inform them that there was an empty seat with their name on it.

This issue bothered me so much because I know these are the same men that have been taken from the community and are the same men going back to the community. So I took action and wrote an article here for the prison newspaper confronting this issue and posed the question, “Aren’t there enough empty seats with our names on them?”

Aren’t there empty seats at our children’s parent/teacher conferences with our names on them? Aren’t there empty seats at our sons’ football and basketball games with our names on them? Isn’t there an empty seat at our daughters’ proms and dance recitals with our names on them? Isn’t there an empty seat in our homes next to our wives with our names on them? Aren’t there people who meet in the neighborhood regularly to discuss the greater good of the village and the things that can be done to make our community to represent us? But guess what — that seat is often times empty also.

I informed the men that we are leaving empty seats all over the place and it is hurting our loved ones and hindering our community.

Over the last nine years while I have been incarcerated I have witnessed the DOC carousel of brothers coming and going, and going and coming. They come in and make promises and they leave and break them. So if the men who are here are a large percent of the men who are absent from the community, then is it safe to say that these men’s attitudes while here are a direct reflection of some of the issues that plague our community?


Next week: Finding value in your empty seats? 

Kevin Reese in an inmate at Lino Lakes Correctional Facility.