My name is Michael Johnson. I’m from Oakland, California

Video-visits-art-by-Julia-Kuo-Vice-2017-1400x742, My name is Michael Johnson. I’m from Oakland, California, Abolition Now!
This is what reform looks like – we want abolition now! In an article by Victoria Law for Vice in 2017, “’Those Visits Were Everything’: How Prison Visitation Cuts Devastate Families,” written before the pandemic, so before it could be used as an excuse by politicians and departments of corrections to profit off their captives, she wrote: “Incarceration doesn’t affect just children and parents – other family members, such as spouses, non-married partners, parents and siblings, also feel the brunt of their loved ones’ absence. In-person visits allow families to maintain their relationships despite long periods of separation.” – Art by Julia Kuo

I’m currently doing a 14-year eight-month sentence. I’ve been locked up seven years and six months now. I have six more years to go.

I’m writing because I want to tell my story; like I said before, I’m from Oakland, California.

I haven’t had a visit in seven years. Why? Because of the prisons I’ve been sent to. 

I was in Mississippi for two years, Arizona for seven months, California City for two years, which is in Southern California, and now I’m in Calipatria State Prison, which is also in Southern California. My family can’t make those trips because it’s too far and they can’t afford it.

Me not being able to get a visit is stressing me out.

They send us to these prisons far away from our family, and most of us inmates’ families are not financially stable enough to make the trips.

You have Northern California inmates in Southern California prisons and Southern California inmates in Northern California prisons. That’s cruel punishment.

We should be able to be closer to our families.

I’m currently in a relationship with an amazing woman. We’ve been with each other for a year. We do video visits, which we are thankful for, but there’s nothing like an in-person visit.

“The degree of civilization in a society can be judged by entering its prisons.”

I want an in-person visit with her, but I’m too far and she can’t make it.

Also, my sister, Arnika Barriga, got killed last month in Oakland, on Sept. 13, 2021. My mother can’t even visit me because I’m too far! This stuff has to stop.

I’ve been trying to get to a Northern California prison for years, but they won’t let me.

I’m reaching out to you guys for some help. Please respond.

Send our brother some love and light: Michael Johnson, AX7307, Calipatria SP C2-239U, P.O. Box 5006, Calipatria, CA 92233.

Editor’s note: Michael went on to ask, “I also want to know if I can receive a newspaper.” Of course, we sent him a newspaper and added him to our Prisoners Subscription Fund. That’s why it’s important to maintain this fund.

We know that Michael represents millions of modern-day enslaved people stripped of agency over their lives, living in uninhabitable, toxic conditions, medically neglected and abused, psychologically tortured, ineffectually educated, dehumanized; and yet they manage to maintain their humanity, putting free society to shame where far too many turn a blind eye to what’s taking place within our prisons aka slave camps. 

Unfortunately, we have yet to fully embrace the implications of this quote by Fyodor Dostoevsky: “The degree of civilization in a society can be judged by entering its prisons.”

The reason I separated this out was, to me it clearly expressed a latent activist within Michael, a person who wants to be more knowledgeable about what’s going on and has an innate sense that his humanity is being assaulted – and is acknowledging he’s not alone, that it’s bigger than him. He speaks simply, but deeply, of the pain of family separation, of being human-trafficked, of the denial of human touch and affection and the traumatic, destructive and genocidal aspects of incarceration, soon to be better known as modern-day slavery. I hope this brings inspiration, light and hope as we work together towards abolition.