April 2020, the month of coronavirus lockdown. My breathing exercises in spring views of East London, UK

I would like to start this blogpost acknowledging this has been one changeable mood kind of a month.

It begun in semi frustration and acceptance: this is what we need to do and we commit to it. Blindfolded into commitment, no questions asked. Then days, then weeks passed. The exhaustion of changing habits in and out of home. The disappointment of realising you can’t walk into this pub, or straight into the shop, they are either shut, or there is a queue. You can’t hug your friend or pat the back of your neighbour. And that cycle route you always thought as the best, is out of bounds, too many runners using the tow path and daddies training their little ones to cycle. So forced into rediscovering your vicinity in new conditions, you get to become the tourist again, and that is cool.

Then the important stuff happening unnoticed until you think there’s value in the time you have saved from travelling and all the social stuff you can no longer do. So talking to friends and neighbours you end up rocking up to a community space in a church build on the ruins of one that was built in the 1600s, thinking you’re not the religious type but there are enough Muslim kids and white working class families about to take the edge off.

Next thing you’re committed and talking to new people. That guy is familiar, of course he is in and out of my block, and we chat, I hear the news and off we go.

Those who are organising everything, early on in the outbreak, with little knowledge of the impact yet without hesitation, they set up shop quickly. They asked and got donations, listened unjudgmentally to the community’s input, and attracted people of all ethnicities and faiths to help. They reassigned resources quickly. The initial food was delivered to 40 odd people three times a week and now it has grown to double of that.

Today, the last day of April feels like a halfway point on a long holiday. It’s been thrilling, confusing, too long, too short, too busy, and now seems to be going too fast and to be true, I don’t want it to end yet, but I do want to be able to make plans for the future.

Somehow the reality is: I can’t, and none of us can.

As we will gradually re-enter a version of normality in the coming months, there will be plenty of vulnerable people who will still not be able to leave their home. This help will not stop with our needs being met, and not until they have their fully met. It has been challenging at times running up and down unfamiliar estates, motivating oneself to get out, cover up, do your deed, run home, take everything off, clean everything, shower. Yet it’s been worth it. The smiles, the chats, the waves, the odd requests, or the kind wishes and offers. It all makes it so special.

This month has also been one where I covered nearly 200km cycling. It’s not a lot, however in addition to my training, and the bursting energy of spring colours and smells, there was plenty of visual richness to record.

The blog and the photos are dedicated to the community leaders, and those who need their swift action. They are being both my inspiration and motivation throughout the past six weeks and the very out of the ordinary month of April 2020.

Canary Wharf

Even more so, this month I hope does not go by forgotten. Everyone has been affected by it and I purposely included the empty canary wharf development. No one is immune to this and I hope this chance for a level playing field is finally grasped like the breath of fresh air we so much need.

I learnt a new word today, Decarceration

Decarceration means more than getting individuals out of prison. It means healing trauma, restoring civil rights, and ending the suffering this system has imposed on American families and communities.

The U.S. puts more people in prison than any other nation in the world.

Today we have over 2 million behind bars, 10–14 million arrests every year, and 70 million Americans with a criminal record. Not included in these numbers are all of the families, who have committed no crime at all yet suffer greatly from the separation of loved ones.

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Our overly punitive system only increases the threat that individuals pose when they are released back into their community. Even for people who have committed serious and violent crimes, it is time to offer effective rehabilitation based on high quality mental health services.

Of course, with over two million still behind bars, our first priority is to release those prisoners who represent little or no threat to public safety. But releasing people isn’t enough, because the taint of punishment has a debilitating effect on the millions who return. We need to confront our own social stigmas and the long shadow cast by mass incarceration. To be successful, we need a paradigm shift.

Our systems must move from punishment to public health.

We need new social institutions to replace our prisons– places of healing and reconciliation. We must build local resources of peer and family support. We must provide meaningful support, not just supervision, for people after release. Over 5 million prison survivors already live in our communities as convicted felons, and their life prospects are severely limited by the restrictions that our legal system imposes on them. We must restore their civil rights.

Our politicians must now confront the devastation that mass incarceration has wreaked on poor and minority communities in America, and to take responsibility for treating the wounds of a racist and brutal institution. The primary goal of decarceration is one of healing, and I am launching this website with the hope it will become a useful tool in this newly energized struggle.

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About the author

Ernest Drucker, PhD, is a licensed Clinical Psychologist in NY State and conducts research in AIDS, drug policy, prisons and criminal justice policies, and is active in global public health and human rights efforts in the US and abroad. Ernest is a Research Professor in Criminal Justice and Anthropology at John Jay College of Criminal Justice, City University of New York. He founded Decarceration.org in 2015.