Shades of Gray

Freddie Gray Yesterday Freddie Gray, age 25, was buried after succumbing to injuries he sustained at the hands of several Baltimore Police Department officers. No one knows exactly what happened that terrible day on April 12, 2015 and perhaps no one ever will. But one thing is for certain- Mr. Freddie Gray is dead. His twin sister has lost her brother, his parents have lost their son, and the world has lost another young black man to police brutality. The media consistently reports that Freddie died of a spinal injury but official reports state that his spine was severed, an injury so severe that it took his life. Semantics? I think not. If we are going to have a real discussion on the issue of police brutality, accountability, police-community relations, and steps towards healing then we must not sugarcoat the issue. 25 year-old Freddie Gray died after officers stomped on his back and severed his spine ending his short life. They gave Freddie Gray a life sentence for allegedly having guns in his possession. These officers acted as the judge and jury and unfortunately Mr. Gray did not have a chance.

Police Vehicle Burning    CVS Burning

The match was lit and Baltimore burned for the better part of the afternoon and night of April 27th. While many protested peacefully in the street, others used it as an opportunity to engage in lawlessness. Baltimore residents are angry. Those watching around the country and world are angry. We are all angry. But how does breaking into a liquor store or destroying a CVS Drug Store further the cause in a positive manner? How does bad behavior honor the spirit of Freddie Gray or comfort his family? It doesn’t. It is an unnecessary distraction and confuses the agenda. For those rioting in Baltimore, they are in the minority and they are punishing no one but themselves. They open themselves up to arrest, prosecution, jail time, and have physically destroyed segments of their own communities.

The Governor blamed the mayor for not acting soon enough and the National Guard was called in to occupy another city exploding from the frustration and anger of police brutality and unnecessary force. Not acknowledging the real problem feeds into the Us versus Them mentality between the police and the black community and broadens the divide between these two groups. It is absolutely mind-boggling that in 2015 we as a society are here again. With all that occurred in Stamford, Florida, Staten Island, NY, Ferguson, MO, Tulsa, OK, and many other cities, you would think that we would have learned. Leaders need to truly step up and take action that will be lasting and leave the recycled rhetoric in the past.

Community Clean Up

The good news is that every day we are provided with a new opportunity to start over and get it right. And this morning, residents of Baltimore let the rioters in the community, their fellow neighbors, and the country know that they were not going stand by and let their city be destroyed. So people pulled out their brooms and got out trash bags and started the slow process of cleaning up. This gesture is creating an atmosphere of solidarity and perhaps the healing has begun. The world is still young and we all must live in it together so why not do that from a place of love and respect? Surely that’s better than putting fires out.

Be safe,

L.J. Follow me on Twitter: @CrimeDoc1213

#FreddieGray #policebrutality #policeabuse #Baltimore #BaltimoreUprising #policeaccountability #blacklivesmatter #crime #justice #peace #healing #death #future #hope

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Incarcerated Fathers

Prison Bars Children who have parents that have been incarcerated are five times more likely to spend time in prison when they become adults compared to children who have never had an incarcerated parent (Urban Institute, 2003).

Crime is leveling out in the United States yet there are scores of people still being warehoused in prisons across the country.  The majority of these prisoners are parents.  The incarceration of a father has a devastating impact on the family unit, namely because of the huge financial loss.  Furthermore, when daddies are locked up, there is a strain on spousal relationships, a disruption in the parent-child relationship, and the loss of a ‘father figure.’  Using an excerpt from an interview of a father returning from prison, this post looks at the impact of incarceration on the family unit and its resulting financial, emotional, psychological, social, and community costs.

The subject of this interview was imprisoned for armed robbery.  When he entered prison, he had two young boys, aged 3 and 5 and spent a total of 10 years in prison for his crime.  The following is an excerpt from the interview:

Samuel: What were your experiences and those of your family?

Subject Father: “I was more distant from my family. As time went on, there was less communication with me and more negative thoughts placed in my kids’ heads.”

Samuel: What changes did your family go through?

Subject Father: “They found themselves going to foreclosure and eventually lost the house.  From that point they wandered from family and friends and in and out of different apartments.  My kids developed discipline problems at home and at school.  When I came home, they were more belligerent and they would not listen to me.  I found the relationship with my kids to be distant.  Not what it was before I left.  My wife caught the attention of other men while I was locked up and we eventually separated and divorced.”

Samuel: Did you maintain ties with your family while you were locked up?

Subject Father: “Yes, mainly through letters and phone calls.  The kids were too young to read.  I had three visits from my family while I was in prison.  My kids’ mother was more supportive in the beginning but as time went on, we became more distant.

Samuel: What other changes did you experience?

Subject Father: “When I came home, there were a lot of changes.  I had to re-adapt to society and find other support through friends to help financially and mentally to make change.  I had to re-invent myself.  I got my CDL license in order to find another job and get in the workforce.  On prison, you don’t want to be there because a lot of things that happen in prison stay in prison.  You have to re-adapt to a whole other type of society in prison.  There are things you should do and not do and I would never want my kids to experience that.  Never!”

While this is only one illustration of what happens to a family unit when a father is locked up for several years, our subject father’s story is commonplace among communities and cities in this country.  There is no arguing the fact that if someone commits a crime they should be held accountable but the resulting impacting on children and families cannot be ignored.  And the sad fact is that one’s criminal act is often the spark that ignites the never-ending cycle of poverty, unemployment, substance abuse, and crime.  I just hope the future is brighter than the past and present situation.

Be safe,

L.J. Follow me on Twitter: @CrimeDoc1213

#incarceratedfathers #incarceration #prison #crime #justice #cycle #poverty #delinquency #family #fatherfigure #future #hope


Samuel, L. (2004). Family issues: The impact of an incarcerated father on the family unit (Unpublished paper). Howard University, Washington, DC.

Travis, J., McBride, E., & Solomon, A. (2003). Families left behind: The hidden costs of incarceration and reentry. Washington, DC: The Urban Institute.

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