In the midst of my journey I’ve come to the realization that we as humans are only motivated by the desires of our flesh. Even when that warm tingly feeling we get in our hearts wards against the nature of our wrongs. We surrender, and in life, Justice will never be just as long as humans are the authors that write the script.
We as humans are supposed to be equal in every aspect. We are created and given the same breath of life we all received from the beginning of time. At birth, our hearts and minds are not motivated by the color of our skin or based on the social status that society places on us, but driven by the purity of love and the righteousness of truth that’s within us.
My name is Steven Lamont Byrdsong and I am a convicted murderer. I have been incarcerated since the age of 16 and at the time I write this, I am 41. I have grown up and lived inside the pits of hell. Even when my young mind couldn’t decipher the nature of my actions, my child's heart was crying inside. But by then it was too late to rectify my wrongs and the script of my life was written. Life Without Parole at 16, dead before I even had a chance to live. But continuing to function only from the beat of my heart that was pure and not scarred by the sins of my flesh.
A lot of people would question my sanity when I tell you I often find myself having conversations with myself, having no one to communicate with and living in a world where exposing your true self can be used against you by predators that prey on one’s weaknesses. So my thoughts are my best friends. And I’m guided by the answers that wage war daily with my heart and flesh that continues to battle life and my quest for justice.
My life isn’t my life anymore. I have no control over anything besides the decisions I choose to make in a world that doesn’t care. I can easily lay down and follow the majority and it will be justified. Or I can continue to follow the silent tears of my heart and seek justice that no one understands but me.
Justice is the truth blinded by race, creed, or one’s social status in our society. The laws of our society are supposed to represent the just men and women that make up the laws that bind us together and make us equal in the eyes of the law. But the very people that make the laws do not represent justice. They are only writing the script. Because living in the flesh does not allow us as humans to make just decisions. We are all living in sin -- even those that have written and are still writing the script that dictates all of our lives.
Consider the judges, politicians, and even world leaders that have created laws and passed
legislation. And then go back and research some of those that have been corrupt and convicted or even impeached, not because they weren’t educated or qualified at the time, but because they were only humans no different than you and me, but placed on a pedestal that society rewards the fortunate with. Because of their mistakes, the laws don’t change. And we remain bound and oppressed by law-makers that are the same as any other criminal.
So I ask: is that Justice? Does Justice allow the rich to get a slap on the wrist and give the poor a sentence they will never see the end of? Does Justice not see that the number of Black prisoners is far greater than the number of those that are White?
September of 2020 will be 25 years day for day that I have lived behind these walls. I have armed myself with education and knowledge besides the knives and shanks that come along with this environment. And only, and I mean only, by the grace and forgiveness of God, am I still surviving. I now live by the law, but I don’t believe in the law because, as I stated before, the laws were written by people who are themselves criminals or have been bared or impeached. But their laws still exist. And some laws are prejudiced to this day. In the eyes of the 13th Amendment, I am still considered a slave.
Alabama considers itself a Christian state. Yet Alabama is best known for being one of the last states in the South to free the slaves. And Alabama’s prison system is packed with people for some of the smallest crimes. Recently, Alabama’s prison system has been all over the world news after a horrific and shocking investigation proved beyond a doubt that justice doesn’t exist for some because of the authors that write and decide the law.
The purpose of me writing this is because I now understand what I didn’t at 16 when my life was taken from me. Nobody then wanted to know the truth. Nobody was even seeking the truth. They were getting a conviction, building their resume to advance their career, not caring about a child crying out for help.
In Alabama, we treat our pets better than we do our own people. We have laws against animal cruelty and we are charged and, if convicted, placed in prison for it. Yet in the Alabama Department of Corrections, we are enslaved, beaten, extorted, raped, and living in conditions worse than those in a third world country.
But it’s justified because we are the "bad" guys. We are the "Scum of the Earth" and we deserve everything we get. We are drug addicts and alcoholics, robbers and thieves and, yes, some of our crimes are a lot worse so I understand the punishment. But still we are all human beings and not the animals we are being treated worse than and programmed to believe we are.
Where is rehabilitation? Where is reform? Where is the help needed in order for us to make a change and return to society to be productive? Where is love? Where is forgiveness? Where is the compassion that our great state runs its campaign on every time a new official gets elected? They ask the people to put them in office saying they want to make a difference. But once they get into office, it’s like every other elected official before them. It’s all an act.
My heart cries now because before I armed myself with knowledge, I didn’t know that people could be so evil and their heart so cold. Yet these are the people that write our laws. The love of money is the root of evil and it is the love of money that has put those people sitting high, looking down and frowning upon the less fortunate.
We, the incarcerated citizens of Alabama, are crying out for help. Our cries have turned into the blood of men that are being tortured behind these walls. We plead daily for someone to come and save us. But the truth is that our cries never make it to the outside world, and if they do, they are covered up and presented to the public in a whole different version.
So now my cries are silent because I know without a doubt that the Alabama Department of Corrections is only a business. Rehabilitation doesn’t exist because we are the heads needed in the revolving door to make this business successful.
The United States Department of Justice gave the public the horrifying details of what’s going on inside these walls. Yet nothing has been done. As a matter of fact, violence is on the rise. The glimmer of hope I had when the report was first released has vanished as fast as it came. And business continues to boom as the sun fades and the terrifying screams begin to pound loudly through the night.
I write this under my name because I don’t want to be remembered by something I once did, but by the man I have become in the darkest place on earth with nobody but me, my thoughts, and God to hear me. And if I never get to tell my story on the outside, I will continue to fight the injustice on the inside in the hope that a real change will happen and major people within our system will be held accountable for this nightmare. Since I am only a prisoner, maybe my thoughts and opinions don’t matter in a state that treats those convicted of crimes worse than the stray dogs that roam the streets.
Last night I cried because I laid in my bed and listened to the screams of a man getting raped. When he was finally able to escape he ran to the cube for help. The two guards that worked the dorm were asleep. The prisoner then began to bang on the window as if he was trying to break in. Once the guards were awake, you would think that he now had help. But instead, the prisoner was maced, kicked back down the steps, and left to deal with whatever was going to happen. How many more lives do I have to witness being taken, assaulted, raped, and tortured before anyone pays attention?
Governor Ivey and Commissioner Dunn’s solution to this Alabama problem is building shiny new state-of-the-art mega-prisons with the same leadership and their same mentality. It’s like taking the Miami Dolphins with a 0-7 record and putting them into a new stadium, thinking that’s gonna make them a winning franchise.
The Alabama Department of Corrections is definitely a losing franchise. It’s time to look at the leadership instead of construction and see if this is the administration we want moving forward. If we hope for a better and more positive environment in our state, we need to give prisoners an opportunity to be successfully rehabilitated and a fair chance at freedom.
May God bless us all in the midst of this storm.___________________________________________________
NOTE: Proposal to Amend Alabama Code 1775 in relation to capital offenses and juveniles: