Written on: 11-28-2019
I am no saint nor am I innocent of the charges that led to my current incarceration. My actions in the past have been substantially less than honorable, but I still find myself wondering where the justice in our justice system resides as a result of my sentence and the correlated stipulations imposed within it. I have never been convicted of a felony or a violent crime and yet I've spent (and will continue to spend) years of my life in places such as SCI Camp Hill for non-violent misdemeanors classified as low level drug offenses - primarily DUI's. I do admit that driving while under the influence of drugs and/or alcohol is unquestionably wrong and potentially extremely dangerous to myself and/or others and that I need to abstain from engaging in this activity ever again in the future for the overall well being and collective benefit of society as a whole. I was, however, also led to believe that I could be aided with rehabilitative reformation efforts via adequate treatment programs that promote better decision making skills in addition to learning more about substance abuse and how/why I choose to use drugs and/or alcohol. After years of contemplation and consideration, I've learned several overwhelmingly astounding facts about my drug/alcohol struggles throughout my life and one of the most significantly remarkable ones is that the drug/alcohol use is personally not my primary problem. In fact, drug/alcohol abuse is often my unbelievably inadequate and inappropriate "solution" to my real, predominant, underlying problems. In my case specifically, I have a tendency to exhibit an inability or an unwillingness to deal with emotionally overwhelming situations in a constructively responsible manner. In summary, I know for a fact that I want and need to find more practical ways to develop better methods for enduring many less than desirable aspects of life itself that do not include relying on mind altering substances to achieve the desired results. My current debacle seems to be how I can focus on this objective and direct my energies into achieving these goals while I'm simultaneously surrounded by the constant distractions and malevolence of others who do not share this epiphany and generally only seem to be interested in pursuing the illusion of bettering themselves in order to manipulate certain perspectives that generate liberating outcomes. A supplementally problematic factor to this is that hostility and violence are not merely present here, they are equally encouraged by a number of inmates and staff members alike. Ignorance and incompetence are also very prevalent in the hearts and minds of many individuals whom I must constantly remain on guard defensively against in order to produce my own safety and reduce the probability of getting myself into additional trouble as a direct result of it. I completely understand that the actions that led me to where I am are not excusable and I realize that I owe a debt to society through means of discipline and consequential punishment. I've chosen to utilize my time as constructively as possible by reflecting back on a multitude of rather painful memories and identifying critical points where I've failed to be fully aware of the path of destruction that could have seriously injured or even killed other innocent people. In retrospect, I truly regret such reprehensible actions and I've experienced a great deal of remorse for my failure to intercede mentally over impulses and the nature of intense negatively charged emotions. I know I'm not supposed to "like it" here, but I personally believe that there must be some measure of balance established between the punishment and treatment I am inclined to endure and gain throughout this experience. Unfortunately, this lack of balance creates counter productive circumstances and I believe this is partially why I'm observing so much of a "fake it until you make it" mentality in others. It seems that being 100% honest is an imperatively missing key element for many in recovery related endeavors where it could be dangerous to reveal the whole truth in an atmosphere full of strangers. Furthermore, there also seems to be an unofficial popular theory that falsely indicates "growth" or progress in the eyes of those who haven't ever personally experienced the incarcerated lifestyle and/or daily routines that occur here. This hypothetical theory seems to imply that making "broken" men (and presumably women) miserable will make them refrain from returning to The DOC and, while this is certainly true to some extent, it is counter-intuitive to The DOC's primary policy and objective of "reducing criminal behavior by providing individualized treatment and education to offenders resulting in successful community reintegration through accountability and positive change." Breaking broken human beings more and sending them back out into society is a recipe for disaster and it completely contradicts the entire purpose of the penal system's mission statement, duties, functions, and responsibilities. This country spends billions of dollars of taxpayer money in order to allegedly ensure justice in a morally acceptable manner with humanitarian efforts being taken into consideration, so it stands to reason that with so much of a massive investment of our time, money, resources, and lives being expended that we should all be putting our best intentions and efforts into making the most balanced outcomes for the individuals who inevitably end up here. It's the only feasible logical solution that makes sense. Just because our judicial and penal systems lack perfection, it does not mean that we should abandon all hope of improving them in a way that makes them more efficient and effective. I am culpable for the crimes I committed that led me here, but I still feel obligated to speak out and use my gifts of writing and observation to not only better myself, but perhaps to also shed some light on some rather dark corners of our society that are often overlooked regarding their inherent nature and overall potential. Making our world a better place is and should be a cooperative responsibility of every member of our civilization.
I'll conclude this essay by emphasizing the importance of the truth. The other side of this truth is that there are absolutely worse places in the world to be. All things considered, I still find it important to accurately describe every determinable angle of this system and the environment it's constructed in. There are places out there where the worst day in here for us would be the best one out there for others and I refuse to take this for granted as the implications thereof cross my mind. Regardless of this being a prison, at least it's an American prison and, as bad as it can be at times, I still find it imperative to see things optimistically and appreciate the fact that it truly could be much worse. That being said, it's my intention to make our world a little better together with the help of other like minded individuals out there. That's why I generated this essay and chose to share it freely with anyone who knows the value of unconventional wisdom and where to look for it. Thank you very much for reading this and for doing your part.
Respectfully submitted by "Merlin DuFrein" on 11-28-2019
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