Female Prison Inmate Writes Beautifully Inspiring Poem About The Problem Within Our Criminal Justice System


After a brush with death last week I started reconsidering certain things in my life. I enjoy freedom and good health but I don’t necessarily use them to their fullest potential. Sure, I recycle and pick up garbage and donate when I can, but ultimately these acts are rather temped and absent-minded. When I thought about the values I harbor personally, I realized criminal justice and education have been a stunted, silenced interest in my young adulthood.

I went to my bookshelf and uncovered something I once bought at the Anarchist Bookfair in Montreal. It’s called Words Without Walls and it’s published by a grassroots organization called Books Beyond Bars. They run book exchanges and writing programs with women in prison in Nova Scotia. I find them very inspiring and I’d like to share some of their work with you.

“Robocop & Cookie” is a free verse written by an inmate named Eva Hoffman (which also happens to be the name of a prolific writer from Harvard.) It is one of my favorite poems in the compilation because it is both light-hearted and tragic, it’s extremely vivid, and it depicts a very serious problem within the criminal justice system and within society in general. I’ll let you read it first before I continue:


by Eva Hoffmann

I was on my way home, mindin my own, I’m
in a zone ‘cause it’s 2AM, all of a sudden I run
into a friend, can’t even pretend I wanna stand
around, truth be told, it’s way too cold, to hold,
to socialize, the air feels alive, it just doesn’t
jive, I wanna get inside, feeling all shook up, I
turn to book it, oh no! Here comes Robocop &
Cookie! Running over yelling stop, I’m saying what,
next thing I know I’m being thrown down on the
blacktop, hittin hard, seeing stars, my body’s hurtin
like I fell real far, hands on my shoulders holding me
down, knee on my throat so I can’t make a sound,
astounded at the brutality, confounded cause I can’t
breathe, please help I’m only small, this doesn’t
make any sense at all, unless they’s wanting to hurt
me for sure, pressing harder, throat’s closing farther,
I’m running out of air, can’t move anywhere, brain’s
starting to panic, I’m getting frantic, starting to
think my life is over, when my body takes over,
trying to turn over, when my hand hits Robocop’s
thigh, it wasn’t intentional, completely accidental,
but he says I’m going for his boys, trying to get his
favorite toys, yelling “Cookie, help me, she’s trying
to rip them free.” Aint never seen a man move so
fast, made a mad dash, was there in a flash, ready
to incapacitate me, by empting his mace directly
in my face, the world gone red, I feel like I’m
dead, is this hell? I’m being fried on a grill, my skin’s
on fire, eyes are burning, I’m yearning for some
water, ‘casue it keeps getting hotter, granted I’m
talented, I know that they’re pissed, that doesn’t
mean come at me like this, Robocop & Cookie doesn’t
want me free, they’ll do whatever they gotta to be
arresting me, even if they got no right, they can
make up any story they like, they got some kind of
audacity, now they’re charging me, with trafficking
and assault, joking about Robocop’s sexual assault,
that I’m at fault, yeah right you wish, know ya
always thought I was delish, all ya ever got from
me was dissed, now you’re just trying to punish.
It’s just one of the perils of living in my hood, those
motherfuckers ain’t no good, sneak up on ya when
ya ain’t looking, it’s Robocop & Cookie. If they can’t
win they’ll cheat, watcha gonna do when ya got a

If this story is true, which by the detail and emotion surging out of the lines, appears to be, it is an embarrassment for our society to withstand. There are many complicated, systemic factors that remove innocent people from their freedom. It is lazy to pacify oneself with cynicism by ignoring the problem for its complexity. Centuries of trade, colonization, slavery, and cultural retributions have molded the structure in which we live today. This structure is flexible and relies on the humanity within it to make change.

Above all, this poem bares an authenticity, which I find alluring. While Eva Hoffman still seems to be developing her rhyming talents, I find her punctuation electric, her tone very affable, and her ability to translate so many layers of raw memory superior. I also thoroughly enjoy the fact that the officers are referred to as “Robocop and Cookie.” I found it both alienating and elevating.

Books Beyond Bars, thank you for your contribution to the world. If anyone is interested in changing the criminal justice system, this is an example of a great way to start getting involved. It may be a small step, but it’s a powerful one that anyone can make.