Prisoner’s Thoughts on MLK Vigil

Some of our prisoners described why our upcoming MLK vigil is so important to them. Here is what they had to say:

It is my hope that this vigil will strip off the false mask of liberal progressiveness behind which Washington’s criminal justice system has shamefully hidden for over thirty years. The 1300 men and women for whom this vigil is being held are those who have been sentenced to die in Washington’s prisons. They constitute about one out of every fourteen Washington prisoners. To add more shame to this number is the racism imbedded in our system that has led to the reality that nearly one-third of these men and women are African American. These ugly truths must be exposed so they can be changed. We need everyone’s participation–we need your participation–to do this.


What this candlelight vigil means to me is that I feel as though what I am doing now makes a difference. If not one for me, then for the next prisoner hoping for a chance to reclaim life, and rejoin family and friends again, and be a part of the world. It means hope for the future and, perhaps, the beginning of the end for mass incarceration and the endless circle of harm that comes first from the crime, and then from the methods of punishment rooted in revenge, instead of repairing lives and all those hurt. Mass victimization is the center, and the other side, of every crime.

David John Lennon

My community, my people, my children have been greatly crippled by the many pipelines that flood the criminal injustice systems, which has led to mass incarceration. Generations of colored people have endured, survived, and persevered through many inhumane, systemic oppressions. The many subtle causes of these injustices are never addressed or delved into. It is apparent that when the harms these institutions inflicted are brought to the light of day, they don’t go away. Instead they change name and appearances but continue to function under the same inhumane policies and practices. Mass incarceration is the dumping ground for most of these institutions–besides graveyards. It is two thousand and twenty people! Why are we still operating from the late 1700’s ideologies? Mass incarceration has not lowered the crime rates. However, it has lowered the opportunity for disenfranchised communities to flourish, communities that are still recovering from the systemic racism of their ancestors.

Faraji Blakeney

I have been incarcerated for over thirty years. That admission alone speaks to the harm I am responsible for, and it is not my intention to diminish that harm or my responsibility for it. However, I have witnessed the creation of Mass Incarceration as one of the incarcerated. I have watched as authority has redefined the meaning of “criminal” from a definition conveying the quality of an action to one quantifying the quality of an action to one quantifying the quality of an individual. A definition conveying “irreparable corruption” that denies humanity.

This, at increasing cost, serves no one.

I cannot change what I have done, not fix what I have broken, I can only hope to find a way to limit harm in the future, and for me, that is what this rally against mass incarceration represents–an opportunity–to remember my humanity, and to argue without exception for the humanity of all. Thank you.

Steve Spurgeon

In Olympia on Martin Luther King Day, January 20 2020, we’ll light 1300 candles to End Mass Incarceration in Washington state.

SIGN UP to participate in the Jan 20 demonstration in Olympia.