Prison Life Will Make You Appreciate Life.
He looked at me and said “It was in prison I learned how to use a knife like that”.
When someone offers up information of having been locked up, you tend to have a lot of questions. However it is more of an unspoken courtesy to not ask the most important question, “what did you do to get locked up?” so instead I withheld most of my questions and just listened to his real life behind bars, not the diluted episodes on television.
At age 22 this young man was recently released back into society, after much time in isolation. Here we are, knives in hand, meeting for the first time and I’m doing my best to not show any sign of judgment on my face.
I kept thinking at such a young age with so many opportunities denied of him, what could be made of his life?
He looked exactly like a normal human being, he was quiet and surprisingly enough “ex-con” wasn’t written on his forehead. If he had not said it, I would not have suspected it.
He continues, “it is still new to me, you know, getting back into society. All I want is a job and I haven’t found any yet”.
Quite paradoxical to think that many second time offenders wouldn’t be second time offenders if they had a job. But again, these days who would hire a convict? I honestly do not know.
He later tells me how he likes having something to do to keep busy and being stripped of that made confinement so tough for him.
“I went to solitary confinement for a week, there was not enough room to lay down, only space to stand. Just like your closet space only this space was both your toilet and bedroom”.
“The toilet bowl was the only way to sit down, you couldn’t sleep. The guards only saw the back of your head and would often poke you asking “are you sleep?” which you had to answer confirming you were awake” — My heart was sinking as he continued.
“You didn’t know what time it was, you also do not know the day of the week either” he continues “ants were the only company I had, I played god with them”. “I gave them some of my cake and shared stories with them but I couldn’t name them though there were too many, I couldn’t keep up”. He later continued to tell me how towards the end of his stay, he couldn’t take it anymore, he snapped, cursing at a guard one time which resulted to two more months in confinement.
Confused as to what to feel, I kept thinking “who speaks on behalf of inmates? If an inmate is already losing his mind from less than a week of confinement, who in their right mind as a guard issues two more months because of a curse word? Does the guard report these punishments to anyone? Do anyone approve these disciplines? Does anyone question the mental health of the inmate or the punishment of the guards?
Having a conversation with an ex con has a way of being a mirror reflecting back at you all the worries you have in your personal life, worries that someone else would happily trade theirs for yours.
The issue of imprisonment in America deserves more spotlight.
Humans have to live with regulations in order to save society from anarchy and chaos, I completely understand. People should be humanely disciplined for their short comings, no doubt. I do not think people who disobey the law should be free of punishment however, prison is not always the answer.
It’s not working the way things are. There should be job agencies to help ex cons get a job. There should be government offices who only hire ex cons. There should be a better transition from the cage into society.
On the ladder to make people a better version of themselves, there should be a legal safe haven to make ex cons just as employable as the next man. But again, would you trust the vulnerable parts of your business to an ex con?
The month prior, someone told me their relative came back a better criminal from how he was before he got locked up. I wouldn’t argue if it were true that prisons in fact make better criminals rather than correct behaviors.
It becomes too foggy to see a greater good when psychologically there’s a quota for the amount of people to lock up in order to meet the billions of American dollars share holders expect every year from their investment in prisons. I find myself asking how exactly is prison helpful to an individual?
It is easy to yell “if you cannot do the time, don’t do the crime” but that’s not a secret sauce that applies to every case. Prison should not be the booming industry it is, handling more money than our educational system.
A discussion has to be started, a protest has to be heard. There are too many lives being wasted, too many minds lost, a high percentage being innocent individuals who are in prison because they cannot afford bail in fact over 400,000 humans are in jail without convicted of a crime.
We cannot only come out in multitudes when someone gets shot, we have to start talking about the over 2 million people incarcerated in America. We have to start shedding light on how America has the highest incarceration rate in the world and the little benefits it’s doing for those sowing tags on T-shirts for nickles and dimes an hour.
For more real life scenarios from other convicted felons, read this.
“A society should be judged not by how it treats its outstanding citizens but by how it treats its criminals.” Fyodor Dostoevsky.
Let’s start talking.