by Bobby Bostic
From PHN Issue 29, Summer 2016
Prison is a place where you can find scholars of every kind. The system can lock up a person’s body, but they can’t incarcerate our minds. Right here, we have some of the world’s greatest minds. We have scientists, mathematicians, and preachers. In fact, many of you have excelled in the most difficult of all politics—prison politics. These politics can get really messy. But people in here network to make things happen on scales great and small. We must continue to apply ourselves and not settle for a label that society has placed on us.
The mind can accomplish what it will. It is stronger than concrete, razor wire and steel. The mind is an architect that constructs the plans that build the structures that house the institutions that change the world.
Throughout history, it has been right here in these prisons where scholars have used their minds to change the world. For documented evidence of this, we have the example of Nelson Mandela and how his words from his jail cell shook the world. It has been from these dungeons that some of the greatest words ever written have originated. These works came from the ink of a scholar’s pen.
Look at how the famous letter that Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. wrote from the Birmingham jail cell changed the course of the Civil Rights movement and helped change the course of Kennedy’s presidency. Angela Davis was interviewed in a California jail, inspiring a generation of Americans who wanted freedom for their communities.
I declare today that some of the world’s greatest minds are in prison. We can do what we put our minds to, and even these walls can’t stop us. We can advocate to get the health care that we need. We can train ourselves to be legal scholars in order to obtain our freedom. We can get laws changed to benefit us. We can change this prison culture. All we have to do is put our minds and energy into it.
Through self-rehabilitation, we can transform ourselves. I am not a model prisoner, because prison doesn’t model me. Still, I am determined to be the best that I can be.
We have an excellent example right here in the facility where I am housed. Jon Marc Taylor has gotten his doctorate degree while in prison. Just think of the fortitude that it took to get a doctorate degree in a violent, chaotic place like this. Imagine the hurdles he had to overcome with the administration to get this done. Imagine the obstacles that petty guards and other people imprisoned here put in his way along the course he was traveling. Picture the tens of thousands of dollars that he had to pay for such a degree. Reflect a minute on the violence and ignorance that he was surrounded by in several different prisons while he pursued his degree and studied for his lessons. The challenges that he faced are strong enough to break ten people. Yet he was born to be a scholar, even if he had to become one inside of a prison cell. His efforts and accomplishments prove that some of the world’s greatest minds are in prison.
We must not allow our talents to go to waste. We have to organize our creative energy with haste. The library is full of hundreds of books that we must start reading. Right there in that library, we can train ourselves to be scholars. We were not meant to be crooks. We are sitting in prison because we are not great criminals. But we are psychologists, accountants, and professionals of all kinds. The world has locked up some of its greatest minds. Once we tap into our own greatness, we can free ourselves from prison.
The smartest people do some of the dumbest things. That’s how so many great minds end up in these prison wings. We came into prison as a threat to society. We were the problem, but now we can become the solution and help to heal the world. We have to succeed against the odds and claim the greatness that each of us possesses. It is from the lowest depths that the greatest of people have risen. Some of the world’s greatest minds are in prison.