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.
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.)
Maximum security is different from time at the lower levels. You’re caged with men serving very long sentences many of whom will never be released. The mentality of convicts is hardened, and it’s day in and day out of endless madness. Each day is about survival.
In maximum security most convicts could care less about the next man. They certainly have a disdain for a hostile administration protecting bad staff or that promotes retaliation.
March 29, 2007 at 5:46pm, a day that I will never forget. Becoming a mother for the first time, looking down into his beautiful (then) blue eyes. The silkiest black hair I had ever seen, long enough to lay on his neck. Delivered by C-Section, weighing 9 pounds 3 ounces, 21 1/2 inches long. Dr. says, “Hey nurse call Jim Tressel, his new quarterback was just born.”
The first time my heart skipped its beat, quickened and slowed all at once. Love at first sight, one of those feelings that happen very seldomly in a lifetime. They knock you off balance. Watching my son grow up kept me on my toes. My days filled with fear and anxiety.
Every time he would stumble and fall, I wanted to be the one to break his fall. The day he was born I vowed to protect him at all costs, later realizing it was impossible. Have you ever not been able to breathe? That feeling of panic that sets in. That’s the only way to describe how you feel while raising a child. Every minute of every day mixed with feelings of unconditional love and happiness. Does the feeling of fear ever go away? Who knows? Fourteen years later and many miles apart, that feeling is still alive and burning.
My heart is full of cherished memories. From his first word (“dada”), to his first steps (10 months old), to his first day at school, trips to the hospital. The normal boy injuries to the scary WTF happened and how injuries. All these moments and many more brought happy tears along with moments of sadness. Knowing with each moment, it was a step towards him growing up and no longer needing mommy. A very common worry with most parents.
Now at 14, about 6 foot, 200 pounds, I can’t protect him anymore. Doing 17 years in prison. They say you come here to get reformed, but the things they don’t tell you is the ups and downs you will go through with your children, family, spouse and friends.
After teaching me what true love felt like, making me a mother and showing me what happiness really is, he’s teaching me something new. A feeling only your child can give you. A pain that cuts so deep you have to second guess yourself. He taught me that no man can break your heart like your own son.
“Fuck you bitch, I have no respect for anyone in prison, and there’s not shit you can do about it.” Words that replay over and over in my head. Shattered my heart. Made me mentally evaluate myself, questioning why I’m doing the things I’m doing…G.E.D., college, writing, groups, programs, etc…All to benefit my success in the future upon my release. To be stronger for my children. But if my own flesh and blood hates me, what am I really doing this for? What am I really going home to? I have always been a mother before I’m anything.
How do you repair your relationship with your child or help them when they are crying out? These invisible handcuffs take away more than your physical freedom.
(“I Got You” by Ciara) “I love you son and I’ll always wait for you to come back.”
To the average person today is a day to celebrate the man that helped give you life. Raised you to be the man or woman you’ve become. To thank them for everything they’ve done and continue to do.
While others spend today remembering the man that has become their personal guardian angel. That raised them, taught them everything that they know. Supported the family. Disciplined you when it was necessary, but has since passed away. Leaving behind memories of happiness mixed with a feeling of yearning to have just one more conversation go unanswered…
ion, one mo
re hug, just another moment.
To me Father’s Day is just another reminder of what was, will never be. My father is still alive, walking, living and breathing. Where is he? Your guess is as good as mine. Th
e last time we spoke was July 2018 shortly after I was arrested.
Does it bother me? Not in the slightest. Yes, I’m happy on Father’s Day, but not for the standard meaning. I’m not celebrating who he is nor what he has done for me or to me. I’m h
appy that I don’t have to be tortured with his presence. The uncomfortable tension that lingers on the air when we are in the same room. The unspoken events that have taken place.
s the ne
rve to claim he is embarrassed and ashamed of me. Why? Oh, for coming to prison. I’m his only biological daughter. Who does a normal girl call upon in a time of need or danger? Her father…
But my call
See I’m far from normal. The life I have lived, the things I have endured under my father’s supervision, makes him the last person I would call upon.
He allowed m
e to be robbed of my innocence in his home while he was shit faced drunk, pa
ssed out in the same room. Being raped while your father is present, looking over with tears in your eyes, seeing him passed out with no knowledge of what’s happening. Begging and pleading silently that he would wake up but never did, will change your opinion of the person you considered your own personal superhero once upon a time.
Two, he got so drunk one night that his own daughter became desirable and he got his rocks off while touching me at a very young age.
Three, I am of no importance to him. I wouldn’t even know where to look even if I wanted t
So with that being said, I want to wish all of you real men out there a happy Father’s Day. Thank you for understanding what it takes to be a father. While also wishing myself a
happy Father’s Day. Another happy day without my father’s presence. Another day passes reminding me that I survived and didn’t allow the hand he dealt me cause me to fail.
Felicia (Ohio Reformatory for Women) (OH)
Every boy has a superhero. Sports figures, actors, comic book characters–it doesn’t matter.
Every boy has his ‘Superman’. Mine has always been my father, but I didn’t always know this.
There was a time, I think, all those years ago in Las Vegas, that maybe my mother could’ve been my superhero. But Mom loved ringing slot machines and riffling poker cards. Even though she abandoned us boys for entire days at a time out gambling, locking us in our cribs and rooms, I still yearned for her. What child doesn’t yearn for his mother? What child isn’t quick to forgive?
My father is an amazing man. When he wasn’t around when I was a boy I didn’t understand. ”Where’s Dad?” I’d ask. ”He’s at work Christopher,” or ”He’s on a business trip,” was always the reply. His absence at my after-school events left me with feelings of loss. There was so much I didn’t understand as a boy.
But upon his retirement, upon the day culminating his distinguished career, during a ceremony surrounded by people that I knew but didn’t truly know until that day, all the past days of my life with Dad became clear. I understood.
Dad had never been absent. He was always there for me and my brothers, working tirelessly so that we three boys wouldn’t have to struggle growing up like he once did. Working to protect family and country. He was, the whole time, my real-life superhero. And like any true superhero, he hid his powers from those around him, never seeking recognition.
Last year I lost my younger brother John and his absence shreds all of us. Me because he was my best friend, Dad because he was his son. I see how it has injured him. I’m powerless to heal my superhero, lost in prison while Fate smirks.
You discover much in prison. Every day is a lesson. Most importantly, you discover what matters in life–family. There’s nothing more important, and I think this is why I’ve surrounded myself with those who don’t have family or a father like mine. Maybe it’s because I understand? Maybe it’s because I want to rescue others from the pain? Or maybe it’s because I’m terrified to lose what little remains of mine, and to be reminded through the lives of others I shall never lose sight of what I have? Honestly, I don’t know why.
Celebrate this Father’s Day, with your superhero while you still can. Love him, cherish him…