So Chris told me I could write about whatever topic I picked, and after much deliberation I’ve chosen my year of 1st’s. My Dad, who was my dude, passed away last July so I’m just now finishing up the 1st year without him by my side, holding me up through this struggle. I know loss is loss and grief is grief, but being behind these walls exacerbates everything ten-fold, and to me the loss of my Dad was the loss of an entity, a giant, a nightmare come all too true.
During my first few years of my sentence visits, phone calls, and photos were simply ways to connect with family. I didn’t think much of the bigger picture of time. In the beginning the gravity of a long sentence has yet to pull you apart.
As a prisoner you go from being that one friend everyone knows, to ‘that guy’ everyone knew. As time passes your friends fade away. At first you are on everyone’s mind, but like the death of a friend, time eventually erases you from their consciousness. Your friends marry, have families, raise children and life goes on. Eventually it’s just you alone.
Here in Ohio the department of corrections has a dual mandate, rehabilitate in addition to punish. It’s one of the few states that realize that rehabilitation is the key to breaking the cycle of crime, and this is evident in the state’s recidivism numbers. Ohio has one of the lowest rates of recidivism in the United States.
I live in a very negative environment. Prison is the perfect environment to encourage prisoners to remain stuck in negative mindsets. Those of us who choose the path of rehabilitation do so out of sheer desire and will. For us prisoners, the path of least resistance is not rehabilitation. Those of us walking this path are forever walking uphill.
Prisoners pulling long sentences and who have been incarcerated for many years understand that to reduce tensions and encourage a positive environment we must be proactive with our fellow man. Despite the extreme negativity that pervades prison life, it’s still possible to help others while also helping one’s self.
For all the bad things m
en have done, behind these walls there is a lot of goodness. This is what Underdog writes about. This is how we survive in this environment.
What Goes Around Comes Around
One of the many classes the prison system offers us is Victim Awareness. This class emphasizes the effects our actions have not only on the primary victim but also on others in that person’s life — family members, friends, etc., some refer to as paravictims. The idea is to make us understand that our actions have consequences far beyond what we might think at first, even affecting society as a whole. This is a good thing to teach, since there are many guys who have never considered this before.
I was considering all
this recently, and I realized that things work in a positive direction as well. When we do good things, that also has long range effects, ripples that go out in a pay it forward kind of way. Some would call it the golden rule, others would just call it good karma. We usually hear “what goes around comes around”. Even in here I’ve seen many acts of random kindness. I’ve seen guys share coffee with anyone who needed a cup. I’ve seen guys buy the limit on a food fundraiser and give half of it away to guys who didn’t have the resources to buy any for themselves. I’ve seen guys get a clothes box and give a brand new sweatshirt to somebody who needed one.
These actions and others like them go well beyond helping a specific individual. These actions have the cumulative effect of reducing the level of stress and tension always present just under the surface — and by extension, reducing the incidents of violence. Guys who have been in prison for a while recognize this and look out for each other in many small ways. This is one of the positive aspects which helps outweigh the negative ones and make the prison experience bearable.
Underdog (Ma.C.I.) (OH)
(If you enjoyed Underdog’s essay you can read others he has written and own every post from March 2019 through April 2021, in the book titled ”Behind The Wall: A Prisoner’s Journal ($11.50, pp483 Amazon.com) (eBook $1.99) By Christopher Monihan. If you’re a criminal justice student or a family member of an incarcerated loved one, this book will help you to understand what incarceration is truly like. Thank you for reading today’s post and THANK YOU for following.)
I’ll never forget my first day in county jail. I’d stepped into a world that I only knew from television and Hollywood movies, and like every Hollywood movie about crime & punishment, Hollywood’s depiction is nothing like reality. The only thing Hollywood gets right is the fact that it’s stressful. This is especially true if you’ve never stepped foot into a county jail–any jail, for that matter–because this is the day you were arrested.