Study Guide

Writing My Wrongs: Life, Death, and Redemption in an American Prison Chapter 22

By Shaka Senghor

Chapter 22

  • Where it starts: Cooper Street Correctional Facility
  • Jackson, Michigan
  • When: June 20, 2006
  • Shaka has finally stopped worrying about whether he'll be transferred far away from Ebony.
  • And then, that's exactly what happens to him.
  • He gets transferred further north.
  • He's petrified, because he really wants his new relationship with Ebony to succeed, and he knows that the distance is hard on all relationships.
  • He also remembers that his romance with Brenda fell apart under the pressures of the prison system.
  • Shaka calls Ebony to tell her and she cries. Shaka feels terrible.
  • Even though he really wants to be with her, something in him also wants to tell her not to get more involved with him because he knows dating while he's in the prison system is going to be hard on Ebony.
  • Ebony was going to come the very next day for Shaka's birthday, and she had planned to sing a song for him as a birthday celebration.
  • She does manage to pull herself together and sing it by the end of the phone call. Shaka is deeply moved by this, and he imagines them far away on a beach in Kenya together as she sings.
  • But once Shaka gets back to his cell, he's worried.
  • He finds it hard to believe that Ebony will keep dating him. His dad is pretty much the only person in his life who's been there for him even in really tough times, so he finds it hard to believe that Ebony can do it.
  • To insulate himself from the pain, Shaka adjusts his thinking as if Ebony has already broken up with him.
  • He spends the next day, his thirty-fourth birthday, being transferred to Camp Manistique. It's a six hour drive, and he spends it all feeling like he's losing the best relationship of his entire life.
  • When he gets there, he calls Ebony. Super nice surprise: Ebony is planning to come see him that weekend.
  • Shaka thought she would wait until she could pull together more time and money, but she's willing to come right away.
  • Unfortunately, this doesn't work out because the state system transfers Shaka again. In some other camp, an inmate killed another prisoner, so the state tightens up security and sends Shaka to Baraga, nine hours away from Detroit.
  • Ebony does figure out a way to visit Shaka there eventually, and she stays for four days. Shaka realizes how determined Ebony is to be with him, and how willing she is to fight the system on his behalf.
  • She needs that determination, because Shaka has a nonviolent disagreement with a guard shortly after this, and others in the prison system retaliate by making his life harder.
  • It's a great moment in that Shaka has learned to fight injustice with his head instead of with violence—he responds by using the prison grievance system.
  • But the other officers unfairly make Shaka's life a lot more complicated in response. He gets moved around a lot and ends up with extra time in solitary and also a trip back to medium security level.
  • His loved ones don't know where he is for some of this time, making everything that much worse.
  • Because Shaka had assaulted a staff member of a prison in the past, some of the harsher treatment he receives is explained as a response to that. But he's pretty sure that it's mainly the guards' reaction to his nonviolent recent disagreement with one of their colleagues.
  • Ebony eventually does figure out Shaka's back in a medium security prison, and she works hard appealing to the administration in Lansing, Michigan.
  • Meanwhile, Shaka's trying hard to stay out of a stabbing battle the other prisoners have gotten into. He really doesn't want to get involved in violence and prison vendettas again.
  • Ebony manages to visit Shaka. They spend time planning how to get Shaka moved back to a lower security scenario closer to Detroit.
  • There's kind of a wrinkle that puts Shaka in a tough position. His friend BX realizes that Shaka is at the same prison that houses a guy who molested BX's son and niece.
  • He writes and asks Shaka to punish the guy.
  • Shaka has trouble deciding what to do. He's given up on violence as a solution to problems.
  • On the other hand, he really cares about BX and feels a lot of empathy for him.
  • Finally, Shaka pays someone to stab the guy. It's the last time he participates in violence in the prison system.
  • Shaka goes to Ojibway next. It's not even in the same time zone as Detroit—that's how far away it is.
  • On top of that, it has a reputation for violence among the population.
  • To make things even worse, racial tensions are huge when Shaka arrives.
  • Not long before Shaka's time there, a white officer let a white inmate stab a black inmate. The prisoners then rioted.
  • So it's not a great time to be there. But Shaka does his best to focus in on reading and on getting in what time he can with Ebony. Phone calls are tricky here, and Ebony has to make a ten-hour drive to visit.
  • But they do their best.
  • Sometimes Shaka can find another prisoner he trusts whose girlfriend also wants to visit, and Ebony and the girlfriend will split travel and hotel expenses.
  • Even if they're less often than they'd both like, Shaka finds Ebony's visits/calls/letters to be a huge help in these hard moments of his life.
  • He focuses on their plans for the future to help him get through the difficulties.

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