Diary of 8/16/08
I have been feeling pretty good lately – successfully completing the ISOP and ART courses – just received a package of whole food and also bought some cherry tomatoes and green beans from a guy who raised a garden in here. Work is going well. I applied for the work release, which I feel is tailor made for me at this point, and God has surely been good. (all the time) So I have even been smiling! So when my co-workers Raul or William are down and give me sad news, I feel guilty that I feel so good when they are so down.
What Raul says is true, that we are being tortured in a way with the crazy cube compliance rules and more, “legally being tortured and harassed” as he describes it. They (the people in charge) found a way to get at us that is within the rules. It is driving him crazy, like a caged animal and coincides with what William says about this institution (and prisons in general) which do not really rehabilitate or even care about doing so. Both independently say it is no wonder the recidivism rates are so high. I agree. The people here do not really care if anyone is learning or changing, it is just a job, even for the counselors. Make sure no one escapes or hurts anyone (especially other CO’s) and life goes on. Some staff, maybe even most, will even tell you that, a la Sowich in orientation, that our being here keeps them employed and food on their table – for generations. Our coming back is basically job security, so why change what works so well for them? (especially with those state benefits)
It is all so punitive, definitely not the atmosphere for any learning let alone rehabilitation to occur. I have to be careful not to let it, or Raul and William, affect me to the point I lose my focus. I will say I really do not think anyone wants rehabilitation, as the prefix ‘re’ means “to go back to”, “restore” or “do again” so that if one is transformed back to what one was prior to coming in they will, tada, go back to being the criminal they first were and thus perpetuate the whole system. Instead we, I believe, want to habilitate or change and prepare guys for employment, new habits, etc. So with the institution’s mind set, what do they really expect?
Society in general knows so little of what really goes on (or doesn’t) in here and because so many politicians and media outlets do not care, they have a great misconception of life behind the fences/walls. True, there is a great deal of nothingness that occurs – sleeping, card playing, working out, T.V. watching – that is all guys can sometimes do to cope with all this. Because everything is aimed at the lowest common denominator, little gets accomplished every day. Guys explode, get tickets, go to the box, but nothing is done to alleviate the problems. Just more band-aids. No thought is put into making the system better, rather just more controllable. It is almost inhumane the way we are treated – and I am in the Honor Dorm for goodness sake!
I guess it’s up to the educated men to help change the public’s perception as well as change the reality we have to face every day. Living “free” in one’s mind goes only so far, and takes the strong willed. I need to remind myself that every day or I can get pulled down by others moods. After all, it has taken me a few months to get over being hit at the parole board, with little to no help from any counselor or person inside corrections. The Pastor was little help, but the civilians who come in from the outside for Bible Studies were the most effective in getting me out the doldrums and dealing with reality.
Seems that is the real problem, dealing with reality in here. No one wants to face the true reason they are here or how long they will actually be here. It is just too difficult to face. I know a guy here in the honor dorm who heads up the law library who has been down over 28 years. All he has to do is take the bar exam and he could be a lawyer, a very sharp individual. He is upbeat and content, even though he knows he probably will never go home. I am not sure of his crime, probably murder for a 25 to life bid, but it sure doesn’t matter to him. He even stopped going to the parole board every two years, not wanting to face getting hit again. He deals with the reality of his situation and has moved on, having learned how to peaceably and gracefully live inside corrections.
I am slowly learning by giving it up to God. It’s not always easy, but I am practicing for when I get out, which will be far sooner than for my law library friend. Reading the Bible helps and reminds me others have gone through similar or worse problems and still maintain their faith in God, so I surely can.The peace that surpasses all understanding is my goal, just as described for followers of Jesus in the Bible in Phillippians 4 v7. Again, practice makes progress as I make constant inside corrections.
As for more reasons for my joy, I am earning extra money, about .20 per hour, refereeing summer basketball. I decided it was better for me not to play on those outside courts but rather make some money to help with commissary. I started my new job in OMH, facilitating ART for four guys. The civilian counselor turned everything over to me and simply sits there while I do everything, which actually is okay with me as my teaching background is being effectively put to good use. Plus he seemed lost the first day and hasn’t done much since.
I also was moved to a single room in the honor dorm, a real treat. While there are no doors and I have to walk through the two-man room, I do have a small closet and plenty of room with my own window with no bars on it! I can open it fully, smell the fresh air of summer and really enjoy the cool evenings. It faces west, so I get great sunsets as a bonus.
It also seems CO’s know me all over the campus, because my work often takes me all over, and most act as if I am invisible, which is great. (except when they stand outside my OMH classroom to listen in) My desire is to “leave whole” as most say, and learn more about myself and my God as the Bible teachers say. So despite being inside corrections, life is about as good as it can be.