Bridging the Gap is a monthly column in which contributors from both sides of prison walls explore common ground for effecting change.
Below, Kevin Reese, director of criminal justice reform at Voices for Racial Justice, offers Deon Miller an opportunity to share his vision of community.
The following are a few words from one of the BRIDGE men who is still behind the walls, Deon Miller. One of the original BRIDGE members, Deon is finishing up his sentence and gearing up for his re-emergence into the community.
It is my intention to highlight his presence to the community as someone who has been separated from us and who is heading back to the community tapestry. I will do all that I can to create space to have a seat welcoming him at the table.
First, I would like to thank the Minnesota Spokesman-Recorder for giving me the opportunity to let my voice come from behind the walls.
My name is Deon Miller. I am a King who comes from royalty, and I can’t wait to come back to my community with all my beautiful Queens and strong Kings.
What I would like to talk about is just what you are reading, “BRIDGING the GAP.” This means so much more to me because I understand how important it is not just for me, but for all of us Kings incarcerated who will come back to our communities one day.
We have to really take a look at ourselves first and understand how to Bridge the Gap within ourselves mentally. It has been a huge gap between being incarcerated and being in the arms of our loved ones and our community. We have to fill that gap with coming out with a successful plan or plans, being great fathers to our children, teachers to our youth, and represent real leadership in our households and our communities.
This perspective that Deon just highlighted in the previous passage are all things that I had to transition into when I left prison three months ago. That family and community support was waiting for me at the door, but that family and community responsibility was waiting for me as well.
No one in prison is dropped there from the sky. Everyone in prison comes from someone’s family and community. We have to change the lens of mass incarceration to show what it truly is, which is not only the incarceration of individuals but of families and communities as well. So as we await Deon’s arrival back to us, we need to know that we are waiting for a piece of all of us returning to our communities.
Knowing the struggle is half the battle, and I know the system does not want us to fill this gap with ourselves. Our community does not want us to be great leaders, does not want us to raise our children with our Queens.
The system does not want us to transform our youths’ minds to be great Kings and leaders. The system does not want us to be successful. It’s all been part of a designed plan. If the black man is taken out the home and incarcerated, the house is broken, meaning the kids are growing up broken.
During my 17 years incarcerated, I’ve seen kids in prison with their fathers and grandfathers. The one thing I see from this is the house being broken throughout their generation. We have to BRIDGE that GAP and fill that void because the only ones who will benefit from us coming out of prison and NOT BRIDGING that GAP are the police departments, county jails, and most of all the prison system.
But, how we benefit is BRIDGING that GAP within ourselves first by understanding what you must do to stay out with your family while becoming leaders in our community. It’s up to us to stop our youth from being a part of the State money pit.
So to all my Kings behind the wall, we have work to do!
I leave as I come, in peace…
We heard the King giving a decree to all the brothers who he is still building with behind the wall. Now I must leave the community the same charge: We have work to do to continue to create space and have a seat ready at the table for Deon’s leadership when he comes back to us.
Kevin Reese is director of criminal justice reform at Voices for Racial Justice. Deon Miller is a participant in Voices for Racial Justice’s “BRIDGE Partnership.” Reader responses are welcome to firstname.lastname@example.org. To learn more about the organization’s work, visit www.voicesforracialjustice.org.