I’ve Been in Prison for 24 Years and I Feel Dead

I have thought almost daily, since July 8, 1994, about suicide. Not because I want to die — I just do not want to live like this: imprisoned. The longing and loneliness of being away from family, friends, and from all that is dear to my heart; constantly being denigrated by prison officials; the use of physical force to control my life — handcuffs, shackles, and belly chains everywhere I go.

I do not want to live like this because this is not living.

The state regards prison not as an institution of rehabilitation, but as an instrument of retribution. Not as an institution to prepare me to lead a respectable and industrious life, but to punish and debilitate me so that I should never again have the strength and courage to proclaim my innocence.

There was no physical evidence for the crime I was accused of — only one witness manufactured by detectives, detectives who wrote a script for the fake witness to perform at trial. And when the prosecutor’s office was approached by several attorneys with credible evidence that this was a common police practice, the prosecutor’s office simply forged ahead. I was convicted and sentenced to 52 to 80 years. They just threw me away, like I was garbage.

Perhaps this is why after writing over 7,500 letters to lawyers, law schools, innocence projects, television producers, magazines and newspapers, celebrities and public figures — and despite having provided secret prosecutor memorandums acknowledging the practice of detectives creating fake witnesses and brokering illegal deals and favors, as well as proof of prosecutorial complicity — there has been no outcry. Perhaps this is why I did not receive every benefit of the doubt, why I did not receive a thorough investigation when accused of a crime, or an opportunity to be heard in court and in public the way rich and powerful people are.

The state sees no value in me. It sees me as disposable — as if I do not exist. And, isolated from the world outside, I feel dead, like I do not exist.

But I don’t think of myself as garbage, though I am treated as such. And I do not want to die, though I think about it almost every day, more in the last two years.

I strongly feel that something like what happened to me would have never happened to General Flynn, George Papadopoulos, Michael Cohen, Paul Manafort, Donald Trump Jr. — the rich and the powerful. Every time I turn on the news, there is a new investigation into these men. Investigations of investigations. Reports of dozens of people interviewed. Thousands of documents gathered. Legal scholars arguing. Commentators pontificating over facts and details that often appear pretty self-explanatory.

However, I do not begrudge those who are fortunate enough to have the judicial system work in their favor. I refer to the above men for the limited purpose of showing that my request for investigation is reasonable, and also to stress that the government is expected to be consistent and to accord the same treatment to all its citizens — if everyone is truly equal under the law. If these men — facing fines and short stays in minimum-security federal prisons — are receiving every process afforded by the law (and have actually negotiated some of the terms of investigation and outcomes), why do I — facing life in prison — deserve any less?

When I tell people that, although I do not want to die, I would prefer death to being in prison for a crime I did not commit, some have responded with silence. Others have patronized me or called me mentally ill — it’s almost as if they are saying, “Do it already.”

People assume I am broken because I do not pretend that imprisonment is not torture. Well, I am not broken. I should not have to feel alone and ashamed for having a human response to an inhuman situation.

In 1995, my friend Marvin Sealy was convicted of a crime he did not commit. He was convicted because he was present at the time of the crime, in which he did not participate. He was sentenced 20 to 40 years. Two years later he committed suicide. He left a note saying the appeal process was too complex to navigate without the help of professionals. He could not afford professional help. He wrote that no one cared if he received justice or if he lived or died. I miss Marvin and wish he had chosen to live, but I can relate to how helpless he felt, and that scares the hell out of me.

Nevertheless, I have not forsaken what I know to be the truth, even when things seem dark and grim. I have tried over and over again to bring wide public attention to the injustice I face, and have not been discouraged by insults or humiliations. I am faced not with a lack of effort or resilience, but a lack of help in making what is happening to me something that cannot be ignored. I need help getting the case reopened and investigated. I need help getting just a small fraction of the attention that someone rich and powerful would receive if this happened to them. I need help getting back my life. I want to start living again. Help me get free.

For more information on how you can become involved, contact Lacino by writing to: Lacino Hamilton 247310, Marquette Branch Prison, 1960 US HWY 41 S, Marquette, MI 49855.