An Essay by loshua Getchen GT1332
Prison...the word alone coniures up a variety of images: buildings of concrete and steel, barred doors, walls or fences topped with razor wire, people in ill-ﬁtting garments milling about, acts of sudden violence. Its a place where those who have been deemed unfit for society are segregated from the population at large. It is also a place of which nearly 99% of Americans have only an abstract concept. - '
Mass media has skewed the average person’s idea of what being incarcerated is really like; the drudgery, the indifference, the irrationality of the situation that one ﬁnds oneself in, the animosity.
This is a statement of what was and still continues to be my experience for more than the past . decade of my existence in Pennsylvanias Department of Corrections.
As an inmate, one of the most difficult initial precepts thatl had to adjust to was that simply by the virtue of the clothes that l was wearing l was, and always would be, wrong. Regardless of what the various rules, regulations, directives, policies, or procedures had to say on my behalf, due to the simple fact that l was now garbed in brown with the letters DOC displayed in white on my back, what I did or said would always be construed by someone as being out of line. No matter what one does, a vindictive corrections officer [c.o.]—and believe me there are rnany—will find some reason to dress one down for and rule infraction, real or imagined. They are like petulant children in this way:
“You're wrong because I said so”. Suck it up, deal with it and move on.
The logic, or lack thereof, of how these facilities operate still baffles me. When things are running smoothly, they will be changed to a much more inefficient system. Should there be an issue that needs to be addressed, the bureaucratic rigmarole that must be waded through will insure that enough time elapses for the issues to be rendered moot and the argument to be rendered . ineffectual. T
The hatred andcasual indifference that greets you each morning and tucks you in at night makes it nearly impossible to refrain from reciprocating. To paraphrase the character Ben Kenobi from the first Star Wars film, “You will never see a more wretched hive of scum and villainy”. The majority of the people in these places are out only for themselves, despite whatever type of ethos that they may tout, and will screw you over if you give them half a chance. These people were put here for a reason, always bear that in mind. Though they may appear otherwise, they are not your friends; when you need them the most, they will be sure to abandon you. I, too, was placed inside these fences for a reason.
By actions and the choices that I decided to make, l volunteered to he in a place like this with T people who may despise me and I them. i willingly gave up authority over myself to people who blindly follow orders, no matter how inane; who have, in some cases, poorer social skills than the people that they are supposed to be in charge of; and who have obvious power complexes. This has been a bitter pill to swallow. I wouldn’t abide by society’ s simple rules, so i had to be locked away from it By my actions and my choices I will be able to return to it.
This place has almost killed me twice, albeit by my own hand. I became subsumed by the negativity that I'd become immersed in. I became desperate for escape, for release. l lost my perspective.
There are two paths available to you once you enter prison: self-desuucnon or self-improvement l tried to straddle the median between them, improving my mind and reﬁning my talents with study and practice while simultaneously destroying my body and spirit with drugs.
My IQ has gained several points and my store of knowledge, both practical and trivial has vastly improved, thanks to the nearly two thousand books that l 've had the opportunity to read in the nearly twelve years of my imprisonment. Additionally, I have become a much more proﬁcient artist than i ever would have been had I remained a free man. The other side to that coin is that my self- destructive behavior has cost me the ability to have Contact visits with my mother and has caused me six denials of parole as well.
Despite all of the aforementioned and even due to some of it, I have done What I can to reshape my mind so that when I am ﬁnally deemed Worthy and acceptable to re—enter society, I will be a productive member of that society.
The administrators of prison systems claim that their systems rehabilitate the people conﬁned within them. This is largely untrue. The only way that a person can become rehabilitated in the modern prison system is if they do it themselves. This requires hard Work, diligence and perspective.
The effort required is difficult because it entails training one’s brain with new patterns of thinking that seem entirely foreign at first. An entire lifetime Worth of cognitive functions need to be overlaid with new neural circuitry. The process is arduous and is by no means accomplished overnight which is where diligence comes in.
One must be mindful when old patterns of behavior arise, and when they do, act quickly to nip them in the bud, lest they undo all of the hard work that has thus far been invested in this long process.
Perhaps the most important asset in this trifecta is perspective; Perspective that the people who surround you do not represent a particular group as a whole, so reserve judgment to a case by case basis; Perspective that institutions such as prisons attract a certain type of personality for employment, so when a jerk acts like a jerk, you'll know why; Perspective that you and your problems are not unique and take no precedence over anyone else’s, so you’ll know that when you are summarily brushed aside by an ‘ndifferent staff member, you’ll understand their reasoning.
Perhaps most importantly, possess and desperately cling to the perspective of who you are. in spite of the drab uniformity of the attire and having your idennty reduced to a number on your chest, you are still someones son, brother husband, father, daughter, sister, mother or wife. These family members are doing time with you and you owe it to them to do everything that you possibly can to return to them determined to be better than you were when you went in.
Some of the people in here act as if prison should be an amusement park. its not and should never be. This has been one of the worst experiences of my life, and Fire hated nearly every minute of it, as
I should have. if you want to build your street cred, go to school, raise your children well and read books. Don't be a member of a tragic statistical group. Experience life; don't D0 it.
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