Story of the Week: The poetry of NOLA’s prison crisis

New Orleans poet Jahi Salaam | Photo: Cheryl Gerber for Unprisoned
New Orleans poet Jahi Salaam | Photo: Cheryl Gerber for Unprisoned


Jahi Salaam is an 18-year-old rapper and a poet from New Orleans. In our Finding America Story of the Week, Salaam shares his poems with Eve Abrams, the lead producer and creator of Unprisoned: Stories from the System. Here’s one:

“Tell me why my high school feel like a prison. They got security guards and metal detectors at the entrance.

Plus the teachers don’t care if I fail. I know they probably think that I’m a end up dead or in jail.

The teachers can’t reach us cause there’s barriers in between us. We be on two different pages, like we speak two different languages.

And the ESL kids probably got it worse. Trying to learn a whole other language plus stay on top of they work.

Everybody fussing, everybody getting heated and mad, and most of the time it be starting over the pettiest misunderstandings.

Situations escalating cause everyone’s instigating. Too late to stop it now because it’s spiraled out of control.

People dropping out, getting killed, and getting incarcerated. I wonder how many of us going to make it to graduation?

The system ain’t built for any of us to be winning. And these schools ain’t nothing but pipelines to prison.”

Listen to more from Salaam at, subscribe to Unprisoned on iTunes, and follow the project on Facebook.

From the world’s incarceration capital, Unprisoned and WWNO meet those serving time inside and outside the criminal justice system. Unprisoned shares stories across platforms and perceived social lines, to incite conversation about the ways mass incarceration affects families, communities, and notions of justice.