I’m not surprised Marquis Dixon is back in jail–not because I expected he was going to do wrong but because when I last spoke to him in December he told me life on parole wasn’t something he could stand. He said he was cooped up, forbidden from speaking to some of his friends in person, over social media, or on the phone. He said he could taste freedom but he was unable to take part in the world in any meaningful way. He felt his parole officer was anxious to violate him. He told me he’d rather serve out his full sentences in jail.
In fact–it seemed he expected to do just that when I spoke to him in Albany County Jail in December. However, as the Times Union reported yesterday, Dixon’s stay in December was 16 days long. He then violated his parole in February and has been in Albany County Jail on a second stretch since Feb. 27.
“They had me with a leg bracelet on and a curfew at 6,” Dixon told me. “I couldn’t talk to my friends. I finally get out and it’s like I’m still in prison. I just want to do my time and be done with it. It’ll be easier.”
In a recent interview Albany County District Attorney David Soares, the man who prosecuted Dixon for his theft of a pair of shoes, told The Alt he was annoyed and confused by advocates who decided to lift Dixon up and make him the face of the Raise the Age movement.
Soares’ attitude was disappointing but not unexpected. Long gone are his days as an outsider, as a change agent–he is now a politician desperately trying to protect his legacy. Coming off a health scare and a victory in an uncontested election, Soares certainly had the freedom to take the high road but his instinct was to protect himself at the cost of Dixon’s reputation.
But Soares did have a good point. How much time have advocates and journalists who held Dixon up spent getting to know Dixon? Soares’ intimation though was that they might find someone they wouldn’t be proud of supporting. I believe it’s important to talk to Dixon to better understand what it was like for him to be thrust into the spotlight. How much more difficult has his life become now that he is the face of an issue?
When I spoke to Marquis in December he told me he hadn’t heard from advocates or specifically Chris Churchill of the Times Union since he was initially released in October. Churchill editorialized against Dixon’s 9-year sentence for conspiring to steal a pair of shoes. It was good work. Dixon said he thanked Churchill on social media for taking up his cause.
Some advocates who made Dixon their cause knew he was back in jail in December. Some advocates fretted about what would happen to their cause if it became public Dixon had violated parole. It isn’t clear what, if anything, anyone did to help him navigate his freedom. Once he was back in jail, politicians who support Raise the Age and decried Dixon’s treatment at the hands of the court could have followed up with him, they could have used the case to better understand the challenges young people face when they leave prison and try to return to society. All of us who were involved in heightening Dixon’s profile could have done more to both help Dixon and learn about what the criminal justice system has done and is doing to him.
Churchill wrote in a column today:
“There’s no doubt Dixon’s recent struggles are deflating for those of us who championed his cause because we believed his sentence was too harsh for a 16-year-old accused of a sneaker robbery. We would have liked to hear that Dixon is happily thriving.
But it often does not work out that way when prisoners return to impoverished neighborhoods. Many ex-cons struggle to find work and meaning. And Dixon carries the extra weight of community expectations and a heightened profile.”
On Facebook a woman replied to Churchill’s article: “Mr. Dixson [sic] still cannot accept that meeting that person for a pair of “hot” sneakers was wrong in the first place is the problem. It doesn’t matter if he went to juvenile detention or prison. He still evidently does not accept that what he did in the FIRST place was wrong. His mother is also part of the problem. He is not a “good” kid. Good kids don’t meet other people to steal sneakers. What part of that does SHE not understand?
Chris Churchill How do you know what Marquis Dixon accepts? Have you spoken with him?