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Former prisoner locks himself up in fight for justice

 

A former convict from Philadelphia has launched a one-man protest against high imprisonment rates in the country.

Michael Tabon has locked himself in a cell in a parking lot to show people the realities of life behind bars.

He says American jails are big business – and that the prison population is being kept unnecessarily high by financial incentives.

A parking lot. With a prison cell. With a man inside it. The inmate - Michael Tabon - moved in out of his own free will.

Michael spent 30 hours building his prison cell. It's made out of plywood and even parts of his own home's rooftop. This generator, strategically placed right here, keeps the cell lit and warm throughout this cold winter month.

The main goal of the man once convicted of armed robbery - to bring down the number of prisoners in the US.

To him and his supporters, enslaved are over two million prisoners packing jails across the US, a country with the highest prison population in the world.

"You have to eat, sleep and use the same restroom in the same area where you are laying your head. It's disgusting to me. It is not somewhere I want to be!" says artist Elgin Groove.

The ex-con is now teaching children about the horrors of prison life - to deter them from crime in the future.

A message reaching these kids and one that Mike hopes to get across to the masses, writing a book with the same title.

From inside his cell, he lends support to those for whom crime is part of everyday life.

The self-made convict says one of the biggest problems is American prisons are big business.

“When you are getting 33 thousand dollars a year to incarcerate a human being - it's kind of like if I told you - go out onto this parking lot - and for every rock you bring me, I’ll give you five dollars - how many rocks would you bring me?" Michael says.

And in this dire economy many youngsters are stuck between a rock and a hard place.

"You can't lock the whole country up. Especially during the recession, crime and poverty are synonymous. If you got poverty - you're going to have a crime."

Michael also cites a flawed justice system for the high conviction rates especially of the poor -with lawyers selling freedom to the highest bidder.

"If you can't afford to pay for the case - you're going to get crazy time. Whereas, the counterpart that does have money is going to get a little bit of time."

Locals are attracted to mike like bees to honey. In their town the problem is too large to ignore.

"Six or seven and 8 hundred are getting arrested each day," says local resident Clarence Emerson.

A problem across the US - with less than five percent of the world's population, but almost a quarter of the prison population of the planet.

Haircuts are Mike's big talent - a talent he acquired behind bars, where his creativity was born and later led him here.

The man will remain in his cell until the end of the month by which time he hopes his message will have hit home.

Location

Philadelphia
United States
39° 56' 51.5328" N, 75° 10' 26.22" W

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