James Canady on Mass Incarceration and the Need to Speak Out

Letter from James Canady on December 23, 2014

Interview #2

You write in your letter that you have been speaking with older men to help you mature and develop, Can you tell us more about the mentorship or guidance you have received from others inside of prison? What do those relationships look like and how are they built/fostered? Do you feel like you are also a mentor to others?

First I’ll like to say that mentorship in here is not at a all time high but when I do speak with the older guys its nothing but love. The relationships is really built on the life sentence. About me being a mentor I am still learning myself but when I can help a friend I do.

You write about how Malcolm X was not afraid to stand up for himself or his people. What do you think gives people the courage to take that kind of stand?

In Malcolm X case, it took growth and development but another case people probably got tired of being pushed around.

You write in your last letter, “how can racism still be an issue in this system and it is still referred to as a just system?” Why do you think a racist justice system continues to exist, and who do you think benefits from it?

The white people benefits from it and people with lots of money. One of the main reasons why this system continues to function the way it does is because it do not impact the caucasian community the way it affects the African American and Hispanic communities. Thus it does not receive the media attention it would if it was decimating the caucasian community.

How has your own incarceration impacted your family and community? Or, if this feels too personal to go into, how have high incarceration rates (more generally) impacted your community?

Incarceration impacts my family in a way that it leads my mom to the hospital for stressing and it made my family sad too.

How would you respond to those individuals who argue that highlighting the voices of those who have been convicted of crimes harms victims?

Thousands of innocent people are convicted for crimes they did not commit each year, are these victims of systemic injustice allowed to have a voice? Also what about all those people who changed their lives while in prison, should they have a voice?

Can you explain, for people who might not know, what the Batts decision is and how it effects people who were given life sentences as juveniles?

The Batts decision affects people who are on their direct appeal.

You write that you want more “supporting cast” to begin with your generation. Can you tell us more about what that looks like to you?

My supporting cast will be my family, friends, and lawyers that’s willing to help out and the professor that do the studying on juvenile life.

What song would you want to be the soundtrack to your story?

Free My Boyz For One Day, by Plies

If your voice could be heard anywhere, where would you want it to be heard? (Note: Use your imagination – be creative – but please keep this within 200 miles of Philadelphia if possible!).

In addition to a specific location, can you tell us anything more about how you would like it to be shared (i.e. to what audiences/listeners, with what emotional/atmospheric tone, what level of intimacy or public broadcast, etc.)?

I’d like to have my voice heard in front of City Hall. I pick City Hall because I want the Mayor, the City Councilmen and Councilwoman. Then they can pass my story along to the D.A. about a young African American getting life.