The Daily Grind Video

For Ray L. Jasper III, empathy could change the world.

In a letter that he identified could be his “final statement on earth,” the death row inmate who will soon be executed by the state of Texas writes:

Empathy breeds proper judgement. Sympathy breeds sorrow. Contempt breeds arrogance. Neither are proper judgements because they’re based on emotions. That’s why two people can look at the same situation and have totally different views. We all feel differently about a lot of things. Empathy gives you an inside view. It doesn’t say ‘If that was me…’, empathy says, ‘That is me.’

What that does is it takes the emotions out of situations and forces us to be honest with ourselves. Honesty has no hidden agenda. Thoreau proposed that ‘one honest man’ could morally regenerate an entire society.

It’s the start of a 7-page letter that provides clarity into the justice system, the hyper-incarceration of young black men, the unbalanced use of the death penalty for non-violent offenders (especially in the South) the profit of the prison industrial complex and the justification of execution, grounded by religion and law, but what it really boils down to is vengeance.

Here, a criminal makes valid points about reforming the prison system and the role race plays in injustice.

Jasper, who was convicted for participating in the 1998 robbery and murder of recording studio owner David Alejandro, also talks about his own experience on death row in the letter he wrote to Gawker, writing that being imprisoned for life or facing execution is a modern-day mode of slavery.

Under the 13th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution all prisoners in America are considered slaves. We look at slavery like its a thing of the past, but you can go to any penitentiary in this nation and you will see slavery. That was the reason for the protests by prisoners in Georgia in 2010. They said they were tired of being treated like slaves. People need to know that when they sit on trial juries and sentence people to prison time that they are sentencing them to slavery.

If a prisoner refuses to work and be a slave, they will do their time in isolation as a punishment. You have thousands of people with a lot of prison time that have no choice but to make money for the government or live in isolation. The affects of prison isolation literally drive people crazy. Who can be isolated from human contact and not lose their mind? That was the reason California had an uproar last year behind Pelican Bay. 33,000 inmates across California protested refusing to work or refusing to eat on hunger-strikes because of those being tortured in isolation in Pelican Bay.

I think prison sentences have gotten way out of hand. People are getting life sentences for aggravated crimes where no violence had occurred. I know a man who was 24 years old and received 160 years in prison for two aggravated robberies where less that $500 was stole and no violence took place. There are guys walking around with 200 year sentences and they’re not even 30 years old. Its outrageous. Giving a first time felon a sentence beyond their life span is pure oppression. Multitudes of young people have been thrown away in this generation.

All the while, his theme is clear. Empathy. If you could “put the other shoe on the other foot,” as he defines the word, maybe society could start to look past the surface of the justice system and see that it needs complete reform, especially for those who are given extended sentences for non-violent offenses in the name of profit.

Imagine you’re a young white guy facing capital murder charges where you can receive the death penalty… the victim in the case is a black man… when you go to trial and step into the courtroom… the judge is a black man… the two State prosecutors seeking the death penalty on you… are also black men… you couldn’t afford an attorney, so the Judge appointed you two defense lawyers who are also black men… you look in the jury box… there’s 8 more black people and 4 hispanics… the only white person in the courtroom is you… How would you feel facing the death penalty? Do you believe you’ll receive justice?

A doctor can’t look at a person and see cancer, they have to look beyond the surface. When you look at the Justice system, the Death Penalty, or anything else, it takes one to go beyond the surface. Proper diagnosis is half the cure.

To read the rest of Jasper’s powerful letter, click here.

To read an emotional response from the victim’s brother, which describes Jasper’s involvement in the murder in detail, click here.

What’s your take on Jasper’s letter? Sound off below…