‘Setting the Tone for the Nation’ From Behind Bars

There’s a lot of potential in all the humanity this country has incarcerated

Diamonds can be found everywhere (RHK, iStock)

“My goal is to be a voice for the voiceless, and to listen and listen well. People are feeling like, ‘If he can do it, I can do it. I can be an asset to the community.’” Joel Castón, the first incarcerated person to win office in the nation’s capital, Washington, D.C.

As a society, our perception of what is achievable and what is not changes over time. In the decades before August 1920, the right of women to vote was considered a distant dream. In the years before the U.S. Supreme Court handed down Brown v. the Topeka Board of Education in May 1954, no one would have believed schools would desegregate. And today’s wide acceptance of the LGBQ identity would be a shock to previous generations. That these developments are now accepted social norms reflects progress in shifting what has come to be known as “the Overton window” — in other words, the range of ideas the public is willing to consider and accept at any point in time.

Joel Caston (D.C. Dept. of Corrections)

Rob Barton has been incarcerated for 25 years. Pam Bailey is his collaborator/editor. Learn more at MoreThanOurCrimes.org