Correspondence From a Disenfranchised Citizen

This poem was written by Charles Hill, currently incarcerated in an Illinois prison.

My Dear Legislators,

I’m excluded from the voting process/ in a land that is founded

on the inhumane free labor of someone who I love/ someone who fought and died for me to have this right/an ancestor whose spirit dwells in the innermost parts of my being/

and you think that a childhood mistake that I made before I was old enough to vote justifies me being disenfranchised?/

You think that justifies me, as 17-year-old boy, being snatched out of my crying mother’s arms and my community, to be relocated in some petty ass gerrymandering town, that has been extinguishing the power of my vote in a ballot box since the birth of my civic life!/

While the people of the judicial system are regularly making the mistake of wrongfully convicting people and burying them in the graves of their system for a literal lifetime/ and the government is treasonly shackling our minds by instilling the carceral mindset that our civic participation is obsolete/

Without ever being disqualified from taking part in the electoral process/

But I don’t get to vote!/

I don’t get to vote for a judge who will impartially adjudicate my case/ or for a governor who has the compassion to let me and people like me out of this unproductive place/ that is overflowing with more power than it has the capacity to contain/

Even after we have conjured up the strength to miraculously sprout during the era of this man-made plague that we have been planted in called mass incarceration/

My vote is the antibody that combats every cell of this bacterial structure called prison, that has aggressively infected and repudiated America’s egalitarian vision/

and become the perfect example of the type of constructs that manifest from the dialectics of unity and division/

My comrades’ votes will reveal the self-evident truths’ that were declared on July 4 of 1776; that all men are created equal, that they are endowed with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are; Life, Liberty, the Pursuit of Happiness

and it would be remiss of me if I didn’t specifically include the Right to Vote!