It has been pretty difficult lately as I struggle to keep an even keel in these troubled waters inside corrections. I guess it I am still learning what I don’t know.
The Bible says to know what you are supposed to do, but doing according to your own will results in the person” being beaten with many stripes. But he who did not know yet committed things deserving of stripes shall be beaten with few.” (Luke 12:47-48) Guess I will receive slight chastisement as I know what I need to think and feel, but do not fully know things. In here if one is not careful, the response may be far worse. Because I knew better on the outside, guess I am getting what I deserve – the many stripes – so to speak by being inside corrections.
Of course the Bible speaks of spiritual and mental warfare. Behind the fence and wall I notice it is more physical. If we are not getting it from the CO’s, it is from other inmates. It is so surreal to see such behavior, truly man’s inhumanity to man. It is always a punitive atmosphere, always assuming the worst in someone, that we did something (or will do) wrong and thus are treated accordingly by most CO’s with a negative attitude. I can only imagine the next rung up as being true war.
I see guards exercising their authority with such malice and actually getting enjoyment out of it. Now that is not to say all are that way as I have encountered several who really do have an interest in being fair and under control. The problem seems to be in here that there are always those who take advantage, on both sides, and cause problems for all. It is not bad enough that some who are in control are on power trips, but then the good ones get pushed to their limits as well.
If you do not like rules, never come inside corrections that is for sure. There are rules for everything: when to get up, when to lay down, how to stand and when and even where to stand, how to get there, how to look and even how NOT to look! And those are just a sampling. And yes, they capsule them all in a little yellow book of some 40 plus pages, but about a third of the inmates are illiterate and 50% do not have a high school degree or GED so the use of it is debatable.
Por ejemplo – yes, I’ve relearned some Spanish and wished I’d paid better attention than the D I received in freshman college Spanish, a lesson there – there is a rule about not destroying or altering State issue property. Now while that makes sense, you would think it would be administered with a little common sense. But as Buck Henry so aptly said and it definitely applies in here, “common sense ain’t so common.” I do not take issue with not breaking the furniture or state issue dull green clothing (no bra burning!) But a friend who, upon getting in behind the wall at 18 with a 25 to life bid, was so distraught and, coupled with his slower mental abilities, tried to commit suicide by hanging himself with his state issue boxers. Well, let’s not bother with any why’s or suppositions or offer counseling, let’s write him up, called a ticket, and send him to the box, that omnipresent threat of an all expense trip often threatened in Cool Hand Luke.
Fortunately I have never been a guest there but have heard enough about it that I do not want to venture there for a visit, so maybe the threat does work for some. Stories of CO’s spitting in the food – if they actually deliver it –or withholding mail and other reading material are just some of the tales told to me of guys returning from there, thus adding to the “just wait till your father gets home” type threat they use in here.
So I follow the rules, or have learned to do much better. That is great when you know what the rules are. Problem is, they often vary from CO to CO and prisoner to prisoner. “You’ve disrespected me” is one key catch-all phrase that has caused many a fight or stabbing between inmates. What one guy means and accepts is not necessarily equal to all, especially when you throw in race and religion in the mix – or apparent sexual orientation, but that is a whole other chapter. I often feel this ‘disrespected’ saying is used as a reason to exhibit the toughness of someone so others will fear him and/or leave him alone, the old bully tactic. Underneath they often are really so afraid or do not really care of the outcome due to their presence in here. As I have mentioned before,any sign of weakness in here is seen as blood in the waters to a bunch of sharks. And they certainly are present in many forms inside corrections.
So I have struggled at times knowing I would be better off to keep my mouth shut, look away, or not even go someplace. Sometimes I get so caught up in my own grief, more of the selfishness that brought me here, that I fail to see the landscape around me and gauge correctly what is going on. It’s a continual learning process and I have been fortunate I have not gotten my butt kicked or worse. Thank you Lord! That is why I take solitary walks in the yard, (the large open space, fenced/walled in of course) often lost in thought or prayer and escape even if just for the briefest of times. This is my new normal.
I also find if I continually put myself in communication with Jesus and give it all to Him that situations work themselves out – definitely good advice for here or out there. I just have to process everything to see it. Fortunately I have nothing but time in here to do such contemplation, I just need to be conscious of where I do it. Others have their remedies or ways of handling the mental and emotional stress. But as Joshua said to the Israelites before his death, “…but as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.” (Joshua 24:15) It has saved me as it has thousands of people down through the years. May it continue to do so for me here inside corrections.

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