I came to prison with a 60 yr bit for murder. I was 22 yrs. old with no education and from a family that was very poor. I'm now 46 yrs. old.
When seeing a 40 ft. wall that is gray and dull. Walking into one of the hardest prisons in Indiana. If that wasn't tough enough in intake I was told how young men like me are raped or killed within the first 2 yrs. of prison. The third day in prison 3 men came at me telling me that I had to pay, fight, or f**k. So I started swinging and that paid off. The next day a old school con with a 4 digit number (meaning he started in the 60's or 70's) and gave me the five rules for a convict doing time: 1. Mind your own business. 2. Don't get into a debt you can't cover. 3. Keep your word. 4. Don't rat. 5. Don't mess with the c/o's [correction officers].
Coping with stress: I started working out to deal with the mental stress of always waiting for something to jump off. Not being around my family and being told when to eat and sleep. You are always being watched either by c/o's or other cons. The c/o's watch to see if you are doing anything that breaks the rules and the cons to see weakness. I watch as people got stabbed or killed over a spoon of weed or some tobacco.
Health care was a joke. The Health Dept. didn't give much funding so the doctors and nurses were sub-power. So most of the population had to fix themselves in any way they could. The state of Indiana didn't care much for Healthcare, just bars and walls.
Causes of Violence:
The main cause of violence in the I.D.O.C. was over money or relationships. In 1997 Indiana took smoking out of prison and thus a "Black Market" plus drugs was also sought after. Many didn't follow the second rule, don't get into debt you can't cover. Many men lost their lives over an oz. of tobacco. Gangs want blood or their money. As I said relationships can also be the center of violence. If another person looks at or makes passes at another person's "thing" that is a sure way to get stabbed. Breaking the first rule: mind your own business.
Prison is an active War Zone, make no mistake about it. PTSD is real I had two Bro's get out after 20 and kill themselves because it was too much.
It wasn't until 2000 that I changed because I got into it with some G's and got 50 staples and 45 stitches and almost died.
After 2000 I understood how short life really is and got into G.E.D. classes. It was time to get right. I got my G.E.D. then a vocational degree, and got accepted into Grace College got my A.S. and B.A. and got 4 yrs. knocked off my time. The sad thing was in 2010 they started taking college out of prison and in 2014 Indiana took all but G.E.D. and a couple of D.O.L.'s (Dept. of Labor) out of prison plus started making new numbers do 75% to 85% of their time and giving out all day.
Employment for "Offenders"
I.D.O.C. has taken most of the jobs out of prison, so people just sit around in their 8x10 cells waiting for something to jump off. There are a couple of prison that still have PEN Products and that pays the best. There are detail jobs, maintenance, food service, and yard crew, Rec work. I'm a Dorm Rep and that's A pay (the best) and I make $40 per month to buy everything I need.
Visions of a better way to operate:
It's very hard on men that has don a lot of time. No court wants to be the person who let the murderer go early no matter what he or she has done to better themselves, the Politics of "keep them in" should change.
Bring back college and other self help programs. Give people a chance to show they have changed their lives. People can and do change given the right tools like: (college, job training, programs, and counseling) could make these changes everlasting.
I will close with. When a person commits a crime he or she should have to pay for that. However, once the debt is paid the offending person should get their rights back. That is not the case, most offenders are seen in a bad light, not as a person who made a mistake. Thank you for your time.
Respectfully Charles E. Cooper II
If you are working on an APWA-related project, please let us know how you plan to utilize the Archive. We hope to share information about your work with our readers and, whenever possible, with relevant APWA authors.
APWA is an open access archive. We encourage use of the writings for research, course planning, and projects engaged in examination of the criminal legal system. Reproduction of essays in their entirety infringes on author copyright without their explicit consent from the writers. Please contact us if you plan to reproduce entire essays; we will do our best to put you in contact with the authors for consent, and their compensation for any project that is profit making.