Friday, April 25, 2014
Prison has a way of convincing us that people are fundamentally ‘BAD’. I believe that people are driven by ulterior motives, angles and are capable of incredibly heinous acts. I witness evil, scandalous and vindictive things being carried out by inmates every single day. Remember that for us, “with risk, comes the reward of an established reputation”. Inmates who have been proactive in building a reputation are allowed to do as they please. Unfortunately, it also enables them to have control. Inmates with too much control are inconceivably dangerous.
A time comes when morals will be challenged, ignored and seen as a clear disadvantage by the general inmate population. The choice to keep those morals close, can generate life threatening consequences. If an influential inmate suspects that you do not agree with something, at the very least you will be a victim of assault. The severity of the assault depends entirely upon the directives of the inmate with that ‘established reputation’. At the same time, only those who have taken great risks and have built their reputation, can authorize you to do your time as you please.
When I came to prison I was housed on the most violent, restrictive yard in the state. The inmates I associated with were sentenced to natural life or the death penalty and were notorious throughout the state. Instead of fearing them, I made the educated decision to study them. I made calculating choices in the people I befriended. Those who I did choose were considered as the “elite” of the population. I ignored their sentences and their crimes. I chose to nurture the relationships and I developed genuine bonds with them. I quickly developed status and influence by proxy. After a certain point, very few inmates would have anything to say about how I chose to do my time. My plan worked and in my case, knowledge was power. And I used that power – to keep myself safe.
It will take some time to re-acclimatize and develop the ability to believe in people again. I was on the phone with Joey the other night and I said that I need to remember that, for the most part, people are ‘GOOD’. The percentage of people who are ‘BAD’ in the free world, is so small that if I do not begin to accept that again, it will hinder my ability to form new friendships and be successful at reentering society.
I am not generally open with people. I have to be around them in multiple scenarios before letting my guard down. I have been told that I have an impenetrable gaze or stare. I am at times, an intense person and can easily embrace uncomfortable silence between two people. I am always paying attention to people’s mannerisms, facial expressions, changes in vocal tome, eye movement and rhythm of speech. I am constantly surveying my surroundings and the people within it. If I am complaining then I feel weak, as if I have lost control.
Today, I am always expecting chaos.
I have no idea how I am going to learn to trust people again. Will I ever be able to relax and just give people the benefit of the doubt? I wonder if this is what soldiers must feel when they return home from war…
Once trust is gone – how do we regain it?