Ask Big Dog: Response to the '13' documentary
Marlon “Big Dog” Brown experienced a twenty year run of homelessness, drug addiction, and jail time before Jesus changed his life. By God’s grace, he has come to know Jesus and through Jesus he has been sober for 11 years. Marlon began working at SOS in 2004 as an Assistant Construction Director. Big Dog spends his free time serving those who are living the life he used to live. He desires to see individuals find Jesus and leave their destructive lifestyles. You can follow along with his ministry on his personal Facebook page or his Street Ministry Facebook page.
Can you share your thoughts about the recently released 13 documentary and any personal experiences you've had that can relate?
"Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States, or any place subject to their jurisdiction." -13th Amendment to the United States Constitution
RESPONSE FROM BIG DOG:
Man, this documentary is on point. It’s way bigger and way deeper than I ever thought it was. I remember saying, “if it’s this highly documented and proven, how can the powers that be that claim to be so honest and Christian, allow this to continue? If it’s this known that the documentary can be made and the info can be validated, how can this go on?”
I was in jail in Jackson, TN in ‘91 and the warden of the prison there would take some of us out on the highways. We would pick up aluminum and glass and we had to separate the glass into clear glass, brown glass, green glass and the aluminum went into a different container. At the end of the day we took those quantities of glass and aluminum to a storage facility on the warden’s personal property where he later sold and received the money from it.
We knew way back then that the prison wasn’t so much about just imprisoning us, it was a for-profit business. Along with that, we heard the guard say numerous times, “We got a vacancy, gotta fill it. He’s going home today, we gotta get somebody else in that bed. We have two empty beds in cell 7, the boss is gonna be mad. We have to get someone in these beds- that’s how we get our money. We don’t care what happens to them when they get here, we just have to have them here, that’s how we get paid. Our jobs are tied to the full capacity of this facility.”
So we knew from the words of the guards and the warden that prisons were partially about making money.
There were no attempts to rehabilitate us and there were no libraries with books to read and there was nothing for us to do to prepare us for reimplementing us into society. We were locked up.
It was the idea that “We (guards & warden) make money off your presence here, we make money off the trash you collect and then we’re gonna release you into society unprepared to exist in that society increasing the chances that you will be back in that jail as a bunk filler for us to receive money off of.”
We knew that a long time ago. Not to the degree that the 13th documentary explains it. I understood 13th way before [the] 13th [documentary] hit the market because I was in 13th.
DID YOU EVER EXPERIENCE THE MANIPULATION OF PLEA BARGAINS FIRST HAND?
In 1985, in the state of Texas, I sold drugs to an undercover cop. They explained to me my options in court and I was told repeatedly, “even though you didn’t do xyz, you should say you did because you will get leniency and you will get less time. To say you are guilty of something you didn’t do would be a far greater scenario for you than telling the truth. The courts not going to believe you and with no high-powered, experienced legal representation, you’re going to go to jail for a long time.”
And then, in the early 90’s, I was busted in Millington for stealing. The public defender that they gave me told me, even before I could explain my situation to him, “the best thing you can do is plead guilty, throw yourself on the mercy of the court and let them give you a lesser sentence for what you’ve done.”
I didn’t even say if I was guilty or not yet!
In the military I got in trouble fighting and they gave me a military lawyer. I came in the office and sat down with the lawyer and he said, “I just wanna be honest with you, you need to throw yourself on the mercy of the court, plead guilty…”.
But I was innocent. I was defending myself. I wasn’t just out there looking for people to beat up, I was defending myself.
“Well, that doesn’t matter, cause if you go in there and fight this case, you’re gonna get all this [prison] time.”
It’s known in the communities I’ve grown up in and my personal experiences that if you’re black and poor, the prosecutors that you have -- unpaid, public defender type dudes -- care less about you for a lot of reasons.
Number one, he’s overworked and underpaid. The government has given him 30 cases and a set amount of money so the more of them he can plea bargain out, the less time and energy he has to spend on each individual case and it makes his per case dollars higher.
Secondly, the likelihood that you will be given a fair shake in court, being a black man, even if your public defender or high paid lawyer represents you well, is slim. We (black men) know from going in and out of the courtroom that the judge almost seems mad that we show up in his court room and to him it’s not relevant whether we’re innocent or guilty. “Here’s a black man in my courtroom taking up time and energy, wanting me to devote something to his circumstance and I’m pissed off that he’s here so I’m going to be harder on him for just showing up. I may or may not even delve into whether he’s guilty or not.”
That level of prejudice, discrimination and absence of resources in the black man’s world makes us not want to go to court.
Now we’re not stupid. If you’re telling us most of the time that if we admit to something we didn’t do we will receive less time (and I’m not saying we’re not guilty sometimes), we'd rather say we're guilty of petty theft than to fight the case and get 4-12 years. Whether you did it or not you’re probably going to do some time anyway.
They use the old term, “you can take it upstairs if you want to”... but if you fight the case, you need lots of money. I want to go home and I don’t have any money so I would rather say I’m guilty. It’s the lesser of two evils and it makes perfect sense to us. I don’t want to go to jail. I want to go home. And if admitting to something I didn’t do will let me go home, that’s what I’ll do.
It's just like the laws that were written a long time ago-- I can’t marry a white woman, I can’t sit at this lunch place, I’m not allowed to use this and that; I'm still a slave, just a different type. Those people and mindsets still exist today but in a different way-- the ultimate goal is to maintain supremacy, authority, inferiority, imprisonment and freedom for certain groups of people.