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).

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Maurice Clarett Blogs from Prison

First, apologies for not blogging more. There is always so much more to say than I have time and then I end up saying nothing. I had so much more "freedom" to write in prison :)

Second, I just read that Maurice Clarett is blogging from prison.

For the uninitiated, Clarett was a former football great -- albeit for only one year -- at Ohio State University, leading them to the national championship over Miami in 2002 before making some really bad choices that landed him in prison. You can read his bio here:

The ESPN article is here:

His blog is here:

His purpose is somewhat different than my purpose. For example, he says:
I have no interest in discussing prison’s day to day operations. That serves no
purpose in my life. I created this site for other reasons. There are too many
young men and women that need hope and inspiration.
He is focussing on keeping people out of prison. I was, and am, focussed on helping people who were already caught up in the federal justice system, rightly or wrongly.

He states:
To a large degree, prison doesn’t exist to me anymore. I’m mentally
removed, on certain levels.

That is a common coping mechanism I observed in prison and I am certainly not going to judge it, especially when he and others had so much more time than I did. However, I took a different psychological approach. I "coped" by treating my experience as an "adventure" and I made a point of observing and recording every little detail I could.

It is something of a paradox that I could insulate myself from the potentially destructive aspects of prison life by essentially immersing myself in it. I created distance through proximity. By staying in "the moment" and focussing on the feelings and immediate experience, one can forget the larger "context" and create a different more positive meaning for your life.

The result I hope is that I have integrated my prison experience into my larger life rather than compartmentalizing it away. It has the added advantage that I have been able to help many others navigate the emotions of preparing for prison, a journey almost all inmates have had to make without a map.


Anonymous said...

Bill I have been an avid reader from the beginning of your journey. I hope life is treating you very very well these days.

Tea N. Crumpet said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Tea N. Crumpet said...

I volunteer in the local women's prison. So many of my ladies started down a slippery slope of little wrong choices that lead to bigger ones to where they were suddenly in up to their necks. No one has told me that they don't belong there or are innocent. The ones who don't belong have written to me through my group and said to me, "Look my case up on public records and see what you think." (They have cases similar to yours.)

One lady told me that she had never seen culture until she went to prison. This threw me off. She was laughing because I was relaying a story about one of my kids being a little miscreant (we discuss children) and I said, "You'd have thought that he was raised by wolves!" This lady was telling me that she was raised in the inner city and had little upbringing from her mother who was not abusive, but also not interactive. (Her mom had all kinds of issues and zoned out a lot.) I was floored that someone would find "culture" in prison-- but she told me about learning about etiquette, how to hold a fork-- the other ladies were very supportive of her. She grew up with a set of rules that if you wanted something you just figured out how to get it, the cops were wrong and that was how it was. I spoke to a CO who said that there are a lot of women like her who were clueless-- that they will leave with more than they went in with IF THEY CAN ONLY FIND THE RIGHT SOCIAL GROUP TO REINFORCE WHAT THEY HAVE LEARNED.

I like your approach to what happened to you. You are almost like an anthropologist in how you wrote about it. In fact-- I can see an anthropologist studying prison from your perspective.

Unknown said...

I was reesy first coach in fact..he was not even old enough to play...his brothers micheal and marcus was playin..we were practicing..and we could not keep reesy at 5years old of the I went to my truck and got him an old helmet ...and it all started at that very moment..a star was born..all the clarett brothers were very talented.and good kids..and well beyond there all started with the little new bethal braves ..of youngstown ohio...reesy always remember orange and blue..much. much love to you man. COACH. CURT (EARS)