An abstract artistic rendering of the U.S. depicted as a pig lying underground and consuming a jail.
(Enera Wilson)

All throughout my incarceration, I have never called my cell a home. Moreover, I consider the bars that cage me disrespectful, even to animals. So, I think Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf let down some very vulnerable people when she told the San Francisco Chronicle that a vacant jail is an “obvious” option for a homeless shelter.

The idea to turn a shuttered jail into a shelter is a response to a 43% increase, since 2017, of the homeless population in Alameda County. Berkeley Mayor Jesse Arreguín agrees with Schaaf.

The mayors are looking at the Glenn E. Dyer Jail that closed in June as a cost-cutting measure. In today’s age of socially conscience advocates, utilizing the analysis and conferring with “directly impacted” people results the best practices outcomes.

Hence, asking homeless people how they would like to use the vacant Glenn E. Dyer Jail makes more sense than the “obvious” x that’s being touted by the mayors. Better yet, what would be the result of empowering those directly impacted by homelessness? What if Oakland leaders brought together, city planners, architects and directly impacted people to tear down the jail in order to build something agreeable for Alameda County’s homeless?

The directly impacted people would be presented with dignity and entitlement.

Having the ability to break bread together, or to rest in comfort or heal our aching bodies, are fundamental rights that are connected to the pursuit of happiness espoused the American Style of Democracy.

This philosophical analysis is important.

Happiness has no legal statute, it is not something that is consumed, or seen in pro ts. Happiness is an objective feeling, which is why the American Style of Democracy protects the prisoner, the ailing, the homeless—the ones because of de jure or de facto reasons cannot defend themselves.

As an example, the Restore Oakland Community Hub is a model of design and art coming from multiple community sources, including San Quentin State Prison. That project demonstrates what happens when leadership takes into account every sector of the community. The result is that there is a sense of unity—a sense of power with, not power over.