More Than Our Crimes
2 min readApr 22, 2021

The system is designed to bury us; we are proving them wrong

Rob Barton, incarcerated at the age of 16 and serving his 25th year, was denied parole this week. Anyone familiar with Rob knows he should be free. But with our support, he — and all of the men in our network, both “in the world” and still incarcerated — will make their mark. And we all will be the better for it.

By Robert Barton

They thought they buried us.
But really, they were only planting seeds.
From fertile concrete we blossomed
into solid oak trees,
instead of old, withered weeds.

Through trials and tribulations
we learned our lessons
while serving as our own
rain and sunlight.
We used our concrete soil
not just as punishment,
but as a sort of university sequestration.

We used the time to be thankful
for the opportunity to get to know ourselves.
We grew from knuckleheads
into the men the world said we could never be.

As children we were all deemed
irredeemable, the worst of the worst,
unfit to ever frequent society again,
unable to grow.

Now we’re all grown men
and we’re ready to show
what redemption looks like:
It looks like us.

If allowed to be free once again,
we’re mentors, entrepreneurs,
community activists,
violence interrupters.
In the end,
we turned out to be ‘towering’ men.

We can’t continue to throw people away.
We age out of crime.
This is why it took us so long
to reach the point we’re at today.



More Than Our Crimes

Rob Barton has been incarcerated for 26 years. Pam Bailey is his collaborator/editor. Learn more at