Our Voices > Reform Debate

When Have I Paid My Debts?

Mar 8, 2024

By Alexander Penn

I’m defined for the rest of my life
for a decision that took a second to make.
I’ve served years of my life in prison,
enduring a dark existence of shame:
A daughter, a son who I could not raise,  
a mother and father who died while I was away.

I’m lost inside a system called justice
that claims to rehabilitate,
but promotes to the world
that none of us has changed.

I’ve earned certificates and learned trades,
found God’s glory,
but still you only see
the drug dealer, the addict, the murderer, the thief.
Is that all you will ever see?

To the citizens of this nation who are
God-fearing Christians and Jews,I ask,
When have I paid my debts?
I’ve served my time and made changes in my life.
Is forgiveness not the core belief of the
Lord and Father, Jesus Christ?

I am a son, I am a father,
I am Black. I am White.
We’re trying to be anything
other than who we used to be.
But will you ever see
that we are More than Our Crimes?

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