Marco Flores, 17, was sentenced to prison for 15 years in 2011 for the manslaughter of Jaime Galdamez, a 31-year-old cook. Now, 22, Flores is appealing for an early release, according to The Boston Globe.

Marco Flores is the face of a larger issue with immigrants in our prison system. PHOTO VIA WIKIMEDIA COMMONS.

Marco Flores is the face of a larger issue with immigrants in our prison system. PHOTO VIA WIKIMEDIA COMMONS.

It was Galdamez’ victimization of Flores that triggered the murder. Galdamez had sexually and emotionally abused Flores since he was nine years old. When Flores was 17, he feared that Galdamez was now abusing his six-year-old nephew. With this fear in mind, Flores broke into Galdamez’ home and strangled him, The Boston Globe reported.

Flores’ situation only gets more difficult from there. Born in El Salvador, he immigrated to the United States when he was six years old. He lived in the United States under a student visa, which has expired since his admission to prison. If Flores were to finally be released from prison, he would become an illegal immigrant, The Boston Globe reported.

Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker revised the commutation policies of his predecessor, Deval Patrick, in Dec. 2015, The Boston Globe reported. Patrick ruled that if a prisoner could prove that he or she had been abused by the victim of his or her crime, and that this abuse had led to the crime’s commitment, the prisoner could receive special consideration for commutation. Commutation, or the reduction of a legal penalty to a less severe sentence, is now not as easily attainable under Baker revisions, though it may still be offered in especially trying circumstances.

Flores is not alone in his situation. Since Baker took office, the parole board has received 22 commutation requests and 50 petitions for pardons, according to The Boston Globe. Flores’ story, like those of many prisoners making appeals for their cases, sheds light on the fact that many prison inmates are not outwardly malicious, but have found themselves in situations beyond their control. Many inmates’ circumstances, especially relating to childhood abuse, have forced them into lives of which they are incapable of ridding themselves.

With such complications in inmates’ prison sentences, the flaws within the legal and prison systems become clear. While Flores felt the need to take action for the safety of his family as a result of childhood abuse, he is judged as a brutal murderer and sentenced as such. His immigrant status ensures that if he were to leave, no life is left for him in America. While most criminals, when released, are forced to piece together lives for themselves from the meager home, work, family or friends they can find, immigrants like Flores have nothing and are forced to start from scratch after being denied contact with the outside world for an extensive period of time.

Released inmates are treated in incredibly cruel ways when they re-enter the world outside of the prison system, rejected from society due to the trouble they found themselves in. With a lack of exposure to other people and surroundings, it is not uncommon for inmates to lose the social and professional skills they once had or to have picked up new ones from those who surrounded them in prison. We often forget that the vast majority of criminals do not want the lives they’ve been given, yet face harsh repercussions anyway as a result of the unfortunate circumstances that befell them.

While for many of us, the state of prison inmates does not seem to directly affect us. We forget that as youths in college studying the world around us, we are the future. When we simply inherit the conditions laid out by those who came before us, we fail to think. We dehumanize criminals and, in the process, end up dehumanizing ourselves. While many criminals are deserving of the penalties they have been given, circumstances in their lives often drove them there. Yet these people are rejected by society, treated as unworthy of human compassion and surrounded by the stigma that anyone sentenced to prison is inherently dangerous or utterly immoral.

As the future of the society built around us — and of the society that we ourselves continue to build — we must remember to question everything, and this principle should not be lost on the prison system. Many people take for granted the good fortune in their lives and assume the understanding that if a problem does not directly affect them, it is not worth immediate consideration or resolution. When issues like this surround us in our world and are left uncorrected for long periods of time, it gives way to a society and government saturated with problems. Yet we only complain, and we rarely attempt to actively be the change we hope to see. In allowing unjust conditions like these to exist, whether in areas of our own lives or in specific cases such as flaws in the prison system, we fail to show compassion and thus fail to remember that we are more than the laws that govern us. We are human.