A jail stay as a teen led me to advocacy, but incarceration leads many to ruin

Muhammad Ali Nasir, also known by his emcee name MAN-E, the advocacy, policy and civic engagement coordinator for 1Hood and founder of Community Care & Resistance In Pittsburgh, stands outside the Allegheny County Jail on Tuesday, Oct. 24, 2023, in Uptown. CCRIP does outreach on Tuesdays outside the jail, where Nasir served time in his youth. (Photo by Stephanie Strasburg/PublicSource)

To this day, a hard knock on the door — like the one that preceded my arrest at age 16 — can floor my mother with anxiety. I work to help people coming out of incarceration so they and their families won’t be caught in a spiral.

First-person essay by Muhammad Ali Nasir for PublicSource

In the early hours of Sept. 2, 2005, my family’s  sense of normalcy was interrupted by an  aggressive banging on the door. I stood at the top of the stairs as my brother answered only to be pushed aside by four police officers. They pointed at me, stating I was under arrest. 

My brother demanded to see a warrant, which they eventually presented after threatening to arrest him for obstruction of justice. I was allowed to put on shoes before being handcuffed, along with my nephew, and escorted into the back of a police cruiser. 

It was the start of my long and challenging journey through the criminal justice system. I was just 16, wrongly accused and horribly unprepared.


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