This letter from a Colorado prisoner was posted in today's Rocky.
As an incarcerated black man, I am equally - if not more - excited than a free man that Barack Obama has been elected the new president of the United States.
I think I speak for a great deal of inmates, no matter their race, when I say that this election has a great impact on the prison population. I also believe the recidivism rate will drop as a result of the election.
I believe that once you have been convicted of a felony and have received prison time as a result, life as a productive citizen - once released from prison - no longer exists.
Society has labeled us "ex-convicts." Nobody wants to hire us; it's extremely difficult to get affordable housing. Most places that will accept ex-felons are the very neighborhoods in which ex-felons have the hardest time succeeding.
We all had dreams and goals as young kids and even as young men. After being convicted and serving prison time for a felony, however, those dreams are no longer a reality. How many doctors, lawyers and professional individuals do you know who have been convicted of a felony and sent to prison and still have their job in that same profession? I'm not talking about construction workers or the blue-collar work force; those jobs are tailored for ex-felons. I'm talking about white-collar professions we all dreamed about when we were kids.
Now, however, things are different. How many black presidents can you name? Obama has opened an immense door for so many of us that we can now dare to dream again. We can actually dream about going back to college upon our release, and actually succeeding there. We now have hope that if a black man can run the United States of America, then an incarcerated man can surely obtain a white-collar professional job and beyond.
There is hope that life upon release will not be contained to blue-collar, back-breaking jobs. I am now actually motivated to reach a little bit higher, dream a little bit longer and encourage myself a little bit more that I can have a productive life upon my release.
I am no longer of the mind-set that I will return to the same old society that bats an eye at ex-felons trying once again to be a productive member of society. No longer do I have to rely on impractical thinking because I believed that I was a society reject.
America just elected a black man to be the next president of the United States of America. That says something about today's society. I hope it says something about every person who ever dreamed. I hope it encourages us all to chase those dreams just a little bit more. I hope it encourages us to remember that this country was built on dreams and it's not so much where we've been, but where we are going that really counts.
Nowadays it would seem that a majority of society judges a man on his character, rather than his label. It's a great relief knowing that hard work pays off once again no matter who you are or where you come from. No longer is the excuse available that our label is our supreme hindrance.
Rocky Mountain News