Prisoners are persons whom most of us would rather not think about. Banished from everyday sight, they exist in a shadow world that only dimly enters our awareness. They are members of a "total institution" that controls their daily existence in a way that few of us can imagine. "[P]rison is a complex of physical arrangements and of measures, all wholly governmental, all wholly performed by agents of government, which determine the total existence of certain human beings (except perhaps in the realm of the spirit, and inevitably there as well) from sundown to sundown, sleeping, walking, speaking, silent, working, playing, viewing, eating, voiding, reading, alone, with others. . . ." It is thus easy to think of prisoners as members of a separate netherworld, driven by its own demands, ordered by its own customs, ruled by those whose claim to power rests on raw necessity. -- Justice William Brennan, dissenting in O’Lone v. Estate of Shabazz, 482 U.S. 342, 354-55 (1987).

Wednesday, April 11, 2007


I think I already know what Martha Stewart meant when, upon leaving prison, she remarked that her experience was "life affirming and life altering."

I am already in awe of the guys. While I am not as much in awe after 2 days as I was after one day (a pattern which may continue), nonetheless, they are all helpful, generous, and nice. I have been to men's church retreats with rougher characters :).

Most of them have unbelievable attitudes. I almost feel like apologizing to these guys when I tell them I'm only doing 3 months. At first they think I mean I am only doing 3 months here. When I tell them that is my whole sentence, they say they have never heard of such a thing.

One guy in my room is 12 years into a 20 year sentence. How do you tell someone like that you only have 3 months?

I have a feeling I may learn a lot about life and guts and perseverance from these guys in the next 3 months.

For example, another guy in my room said that you find out in prison what's real and what's not and most of the stuff he thought was real he discovered was just an illusion. You've got to learn to "do your time." If you let "time do you," you'll go crazy. While I'm sure that's a cliche in prison, it was new to me. I don't remember hearing that in college.

I wonder how many people in the "real" world are letting "time do them."

This is going to be a very interesting 3 months.

[UPDATE: Needless to say, if you have read the rest of my blog, my "awe" did diminish over time. Some of these guys have earned my respect by the way they approach their time. But, in most cases, just below the surface, there are a multitude of personal issues simmering. Everyone has to figure out how to do their own time. Some adapt better than others.]


Anonymous said...
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Anonymous said...

I understand what you are toalking about because I once did 5 years i a Federal prison. Most of the time was spent in a prison camp so it was not too bad. What hurt most was the betrayal back home. My ex wife left me and dated someone I know. What really mad eit hard was she was involved in the drug conspiracy but I took a plea bargain and therefore she was spared. Well in return she spent all of our money over 300 thousand and she started dating another guy I know. When I came home she was suffering with lung cancer and I still looked out for her. It was different and I did not give her all my love. She destroyed that by not respecting me or looking out for our best interest. She seemed to be only interested in her best interest not ours. So if you are doing time be prepared for let downs and betrayal and keep in mind that someone elses decisions are not your fault. Do not hold yourself responsible for the bad ways of anyone no matter how much you love them or who they are.