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 deadly and 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 upon 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 examples 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 the famous letter that Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. wrote from the Birmingham jail cell that 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. Paul wrote some of the New Testament of the Bible from a jail cell.
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 wails can’t stop us. 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 does not model me. Still, I am determined to be the best that I can be.
We have excellent examples of prisoners who have come before us. Jon Marc Taylor got his doctorate degree while in prison. Just think of the fortitude that it took to get a doctorate degree in a violent chaotic place such as prison. Imagine the hurdles that he had to overcome with the prison administration to get this done. Reflect on the obstacles that petty guards and small-minded inmates put in his way along the course that he was traveling on.
Picture the tens of thousands of dollars he had to pay for such a degree. Ponder a minute on the violence and ignorance that he was surrounded by in the different prisons while he pursued his degree and studied for his lessons with all the noise of these jails. The challenges that he faced would have been insurmountable for some people. Yet in his own right he was a prison scholar. 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 the library, we can train ourselves to be scholars. We are not meant to be crooks. We are sitting in prison because we were 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 the problem, but now we can be 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 has risen. Some of the world’s greatest minds are in prison.