This is one of the essays I had to write for a "text production" course at university.
|“Innocent until proven guilty” – a meaningless sentence for the majority of the prisoners, a last glimmer of hope for the real innocent ones. To me, it is nothing more than pure hypocrisy. I have never been proven guilty, but that doesn’t matter in the small, dirty prison cell I am sitting in.
The old walls are covered with numerous stains whose origins I don’t want to imagine. At some points, prisoners have written something on the cold stone, others have simply counted their days in prison. Weak sunrays enter the room through the small, dirty window. Before I was stuck here, I didn’t really care about the weather. I never paid much attention to the sunlight, but now it reminds me of freedom.
The most horrible thing about being in a prison is that you have too much time to think. I often spend hours reminiscing about my days in freedom. I see my family and my friends lively with my inner eye, and it helps me to overcome the senseless daily routine. Unfortunately, there are also days where I am reminded of the unjust trail that changed my life forever.
The scenery of the fateful day has been engraved in my memory. They brought me into a small, crowded courtroom, confronted me with an uncaring prosecutor and a randomly arranged jury and needed little time to find me guilty and tear me out of my life.
“Fingerprints and DNA don’t lie, Mr. Hayden”, the prosecutor confronted me. “Well, I don’t lie either”, I repeated quietly, but it didn’t matter to the members of the jury, of course. Why believe in an honest man when there are fingerprints and DNA?
Let’s face the truth – it didn’t matter at all if was innocent or not, at least not for the judge and the jury. They ignored the fact that there was no clear link between me and the crime in question, they ignored my honest testimony in front of the court, and they also ignored the absence of any plausible motif. They just saw me in the uncomfortable orange jail overall, sitting in the crowded courtroom like a picture of misery, anxiously waiting for the decision that would change my life.
However, I was sure about what the decision would be like. A look into the eyes of the people in the jury was enough to know that they would find me guilty. When the prosecutor explained the crime in every detail, the members of the jury gave a wide variety of looks into my direction. Some of them looked furiously, others anxiously and a few were just shocked. Sure, to them I was a monster, but I never did what the prosecutor accused me of.
A few weeks ago, another prisoner – he has been here longer than me – spoke to me during lunch. “This place sucks the life out of you”, he told me while spiritlessly eating the disgusting mashed potatoes we got served that day, “if you feel an emptiness inside of you as I do, it’s probably too late.” The emptiness inside of him led him to kill himself last week by slashing his wrists with an old razor blade. Since then, his words have haunted me day in, day out. Again, I have nothing more to do than think: will I end up the same way as he did? Dying alone in a dark prison cell?
The occasional visits from my family are helping a little bit, of course. They are everything I can look forward to, although the visits already become rarer. Shortly after the trial, they came regularly, but now I have to be happy to seem them once every few weeks.
By now, I have served four of the fifteen years I got sentenced to, and there is a fair chance that I will be released early because of good behavior. However, I doubt that I will ever be free again. Even when they allow me to leave this prison, I will never be able to return to my old life. “You are a free man now”, they will probably say, but I think this will be just another meaningless sentence to me.