Incarceration is difficult, because at the end of the day when you’re lying on your bunk, it’s easy to drift to thought’s of easier and fonder times in life. No matter how you look at it, you are a prisoner by your own actions.
Yet, it doesn’t mean you must also be a prisoner of your own thoughts. For all the hardships and trials one endures in This World, there are more stories of redemption and change than there are of failure and oblivion. How you choose to see your situation and your time has a major impact on how you experience incarceration.
I write about these moments because they paint a true picture of what it’s like to be incarcerated. For every horror story, there are three stories of redemption and goodness. For every mean spirited guard that goes out of his way to torment the inmates, there are three that go out of their way to help.
I started my sentence at a high security level and over two and a half decades earned my way down to where I am now. I’ve seen it all, every depraved act, every type of assault, every form of deception, manipulation, and evilness. I’ve watched numerous men try to escape, one last desperate gasp to flee the Hell of incarceration. But, by far the worst experience was the murder of one of the juveniles I knew and tutored decades ago–murdered because he was different. Murdered because he was himself.
There were times back then when I thought I couldn’t do it. Days when I wanted to quit and give in to the darkness of the world—I refused. I believed I could change and I believed I could use this time to my benefit and so I have.
I write because there is a story that must be heard, and I write because I want to help others who are are still lost in the darkness searching for hope. This blog is my way of drawing attention to rehabilitation, and how rehabilitation and not punishment, is the only option if society expects to stop the revolving door of incarceration. Your questions play an important role in this effort, because through your questions I am able to shed light on the shadows and unknowns. There are no bad questions. Every one of these posts are the result of questions you have asked.
Commenting on my post Prison Hustles Make the World Go Round, K. Kalhoun from Virginia asks: Is there a hierarchy of skills?
In This World so many men are skilled at something, whether it’s drawing, crafts, or trade related. Yes, there is an informal skills hierarchy, and this hierarchy is recognized by peers to the extent that such skills offered by others may be useful to one’s self.
An example would be the institution’s inmate barbers. Here we have a few barbers, and barbers are in high demand. So these guys tend to be favored to a degree that others aren’t. The same is true for guys who have specialized ‘maintenance’ skills, such as your electricians, and electronics guys. The guys that can fix electronic items are high up in the hierarchy of skills ladder. Electronics such as headphones, radios, and tablets to name a few are high use items that cost a lot of money relative to one’s state pay earnings (a monthly stipend for working a prison job; see Prison Hustles Make the World Go Round), and when they break down, 99% of guys here seek out repair first.
In short, a skill hierarchy moves top down with the top spot being occupied by the skill that is in the highest demand at the moment, on down to skills in low demand. By its nature a skills hierarchy is not static. A skill at the top of the list today could find itself at the bottom in the future due to changes that affect demand for a skill. For example, the person able to fix tablets is near the top, but should we lose our tablets in the future like inmates did in Indiana, such a skill would find itself out of favor.
While all of this is true, and the hierarchy of skills exists, skills do not trump one’s standing in the pecking order. In fact, your skills add to your standing within the pecking order. Could a skill no longer in high demand reduce your standing within the pecking order? Perhaps, but the pecking order is a compilation of actions recognized over time, so a fall in the skills hierarchy has little impact.
Commenting on The Director of Ohio Prisons, Richard in Columbus, Ohio asks: Since meeting the Director of Prisons, how do you feel it has helped you?
In The Ohio Director of Prisons, I mentioned that on that day had you asked me if I believed that director Gary Mohr meant all that he’d said, I’d’ve told you it was hard to say. Time bore out the truth of his words and it became obvious he had been honest with me. During his tenure, director Mohr transformed the Ohio Department of Corrections toward an emphasis on rehabilitation. It was his signature accomplishment.
The current director Ms. Annette Chambers-Smith has continued to pursue the reform director Mohr had set into motion. It’s still early in her tenure, but the efforts that I see here indicate that she is trying to make a positive impact.
Meeting director Mohr convinced me that I am doing the right thing. Director Mohr’s positive words of encouragement motivated me to share with others what I’ve learned throughout my incarceration. This blog is a direct result of meeting Director Mohr. By the time I met Director Mohr I’d long since found the path of reform, but to see his surprise when I stood before him with words of thanks, and how he was so willing to talk rehabilitation with me while the entire entourage waited was a moment I’ll never forget. I knew then that I could accomplish anything, and that I can make a difference.
Responding to the post Who Do You Love?, Tanya in Calgary, Canada says: I really liked this post. Have you seen Allie since she was adopted? What made you want to train dogs?
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