Letter to the editor: An inmate’s song against mandatory sentences

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An inmate at the Iowa Medical Classification Center Correctional Facility (not the author) practices yoga. Thursday, March 21, 2019. — Zak Neumann/Little Village

By Dustin M., Iowa Medical Classification Center Correctional Facility (Oakdale Prison)

I wrote this song in a dusty piano closet while in the throes of anger towards the system we are trapped in. The song is long. Part of it I sing with a beautiful voice and part of it I rap. There are stops, accompanied by the piano, that evoke a powerful message. I performed the song at an event at Oakdale Prison, I sat with State Senators Bolkcom and Cournoyer afterwards. Some inmates since then have grown cold towards me. I don’t care. I have a voice and it will be heard. The truth shall be spoken to the faces of those who need to be awoken.

It’s Mandatory You Never Recidivate

I can’t wait until I die. The pain and worry all gone inside. My head is spinning and this room is full of liars. And the shame and the guilt it sets me on fire. With this over-exulted attitude, your priceless don’t ya know. I’m sick of all your politics, I’m tired of letting go — of the past, o we took it too fast. I knew it never would last, knew this would come to bite me in the ass. So I’ll play from the heart, although it rips me apart to see you standing with them. I’m afraid to admit that I’m afraid, my fear is real and I can’t hide it any longer. So I shake my fist at the moon, the light inside its you, the light inside its you. What can I do?

Sitting on the east and looking toward the west, hoping that my best friend died at his best, and if he didn’t get acquitted hit the street and got some vengeance.

That’s the old me or is it?

I can’t relate, this place is great, no it’s not, the system’s fake, but none of you believe it. How did we achieve this deceptive moral attitude, bad for me, sweet for you. But I committed a crime, therefore I lose my rights. Right to be a father to a little daughter who can’t sleep every night. But can I write? Better yet, who can I fight — push, punch, kick, blood, sweat and tears. Take a life. That’s right.


Then why do we have so many people in the prison system doing mandatory life?

So I pick up my pen and I pick up my struggle. Remaining superficial and you know I’m staying out of trouble. But the parole board don’t care, my counselor just stares every time I ask for something to help me get prepared for the real world.

Prison is a gift, use it well, the judge said before sentencing me to 26 mandatory years in this hell.

So I reminisce on the good days when we were young. Back when I had the rights to protect myself and carry a gun, but I lost those rights for growing marijuana, now it’s legalized, now I have to do a quarter century of my life for nothing!

Was it nothing, or was it something, you took a life — I was defending myself. At what price?

I’m not placing the blame, but I’m blaming. The legislature needs to get off their asses and quit playing. So many people get locked up with mandatories, do you know how many families that you’re destroying?

A lot. More than we can count.

If you feel mandatories should not be lifted, quit coming in. I know I’m gifted, but we’re not your circus. I have a purpose and it’s not sitting in a prison cell writing pretty songs and acting worthless.

Do I deserve this?

I don’t want to be the one who does nothing and nothing gets done. I’m not that one. I just wanna be free, I just wanna have change, I just wanna be good, I just wanna be sane.

I wish I could be brave, I wish I could go say all the things that need to be said. But I’m afraid of the system, and the ones in charge won’t listen, they won’t listen.

To me…

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