The Duality Of Time by Ashleigh Smith

One of the biggest perspective shifts that take place for us here, separating us from the majority of society outside, is what becomes our definition of time. Is time just a cruelty to endure? A punishment meted out with such quickness, it seems as though a blindness inhabits our masses obscuring the cost to the person it was doled upon, much more than one would assume.

Some bits of time go by in the blink of an eye. Off the top of my head, the time

restricted interactions seem to really fly. The precious 15 minutes allowed for a phone call; the much shortened 2 hour (from up to 12) maximum time limit that has now been deemed sufficient for our in person visitation, or the rare stolen snatches of alone time, since  solitude inside is minimal. What these samples all share is their extreme briefness in their scope of an individual’s entirety. However, for those of us trapped in this life, these moments become a type of bookmark of a nightlight reel of sorts that serve to soothe, to make the rest of everything endured bearable.

On the flip side, other segments of time drag so slow the reality of my existence feels like some cosmic joke the universe is playing on me. The seconds refusal to tick forward despite the fullness of my bladder, permission to relieve this steadily increasing discomfort dependent on the forward momentum of time. Digesting the sheer magnitude of the 32 year gap between my earliest and latest release date, pondering exactly when will I get from under the departments jurisdiction. Three years and 1 week; the amount of time that has elapsed without the security of my father’s unconditional love wrapped around me, ensuring my place within the family dynamic. Each of these a test of my endurance, a measuring stick for my inner strength, a survey gauging my grip on sanity.

When exactly does the change occur in the life of the incarcerated? When time becomes not just a mere assignment given to a portion of the day, but transfigures itself into the pound of flesh required as payment for our sins? I can’t pinpoint when the shift happened in my history, maybe I’ve blocked it out. After all, the severing of my old self that didn’t have the albatross of incarceration upon my neck felt much like I imagined amputees’ that feel the sensation of the phantom limb still describe, still there now just out of reach.

And once I’m no longer in this environment where time relates directly to trauma, how do I push it back to its previous slot of minor relevance? If when I ask a person ‘What’s new?’ they respond ‘How much time have you got?’ will I be triggered and blurt out 18-50?

This duality of time is a small slice in the psychological side effect of incarceration. After 15 years inside I can attest to the truth in the almost complete shift in how I view and define things. The lens I see through is shaded, colored by endured trauma memories that trigger anxiety and experiences inside these walls that my muscle memory reacts as witness of.

Just beyond my grasp, my phantom self waits. The path I’ve decided on of self-love, thanking myself for the ability to acclimate to this foreign place. I was able to alter my perception through necessity to successfully navigate my way through here. Showing myself that I’ll be able to do so again. I’ll be mindful to channel that phantom self, taking cues from that version of me upon release. I’m confident my transition will be a success.

The ultimate test for myself of course will be what does the definition of time look like to me?

Ashleigh Smith



*The solution to incarceration isn’t more incarceration. Awareness begins one post and one voice at a time.


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4 thoughts on “The Duality Of Time by Ashleigh Smith

  1. L. Cassidy

    Wow I’m so encouraged at your strength Ashleigh and how you’ve adapted and managed to flourish despite it all. I read all your posts and keep you in my prayers. Time is not the same for everyone true.

  2. Christopher

    Words barely capture the impact the duality of time has on us. Ashleigh does a good job speaking for all of us. So much of what matters to us incarcerated, like visitation and video sessions with family, are now controlled by vendors with exclusive contracts for these services. And if you or your family cannot afford it these precious moments may be closed to you. ☹️
    *Posted by admin on behalf of Christopher

  3. Zev

    I’m following your push for justice through AG and Cooley Law. Best wishes on your fight for justice. Don’t give up if it takes time.

    1. Christopher

      Your comment has been relayed to Ashleigh. I too wish her the best of luck. The criminal justice system isn’t set up in a way to exonerate and once you are behind bars the fight is nearly impossible. It’s good that Michigan AG and Cooley are on her case because crooked and unprofessional acts at the hands of prosecutors and detectives rarely see the light of day. Save for the highest profile cases, the public is nonethewiser. Ashleigh is but one of a dozen people I personally know who have faced improprieties in their legal histories at the hands of those we entrust to uphold the law.

      *Posted by admin on behalf of Christopher

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