I am somebody's perpetrator, someone was a victim of mine. In fact, prison is full of people who victimized somebody, there is no victimless crime. I came to prison in 2011 and had a fairly easy go at it, you could say I went to "Prisneyland".
I have seen everything prison has to offer, lock downs and shakedowns, drugs and tattoos, 25 person fights and pepper spray, gang fights and stabbings, deaths and extortion. I've seen it all, but always to someone else.
Then, January 28th, 2017 three members of a prison gang cornered me in a bathroom during a shift change 60 or so of my peers looked away in horror, as prisoners are trained to do, and I was assaulted. In a panic I went to staff for help and I had to beg to be taken to the hole for protection, I begged...
The following Monday, January 31st 2017, I was seen by one of our administration because I was given a major infraction, "Refusing To Cell-in and Disobeying A Staff Directive", I told the person what had happened and three days later I was sent to a different prison, for protection.
Over the next 18 months I told every staff member I came in contact with that I needed separate-Tee's (prisons version of restraining orders) put on these guys because what if they show up here? My only protection was being vocal, building a support system, because DOC only barely helped me from the start, they never did put keep-separates on us despite my requests and pleas. Then, my worst fear happened.
The first one showed up after spending the entire period since then in the hole, him being at this prison signals he has dropped out, hopefully. He sent his apologies and "please don't snitch on me and get me sent outta here" and a warning "I'm cool, I got no problems, but so and so is coming soon and I can't speak for him."
"So and so" was the actual assaulter, the other two were safeguards in case I fought back- which I did not. He was the instigator and someone who hit on me constantly when his "homies" weren't around. I tried to keep my distance because I knew he was dangerous, but we are in prison, everyone was dangerous, right? Since that night his every wrinkle and feature is burned into me dreams, I had nightmares about him for nearly a year before I could sleep through the night. All the while I begged for someone to help me and all I got was "we have no record".
Then he showed up. Now I must exist in the same space as this man, I have come to respect some of his former gang buddies because they have truly dropped out and changed their lives, but I watch them hug him and accept him and it makes me feel as if they are all threats again. Now I trust no one, everyone seems dangerous again.
I have been assured he is in the process of change and not a threat to me or others, coming from the mouth of the men who used to unleash him on others. But there is something underpinning all of this that I have to get out people.
How can I not forgive him? I must, I must move on because isn't that what I am asking my community to do? Forgive me, allow me to reform and prove my worth again, build trust? Give me an opportunity? What kind of person would I be if I won't do the very thing I am asking of you?
So, while I am anxious, fearful even, I press on and I do so in faith and trust that I will see a change in this man. A wonderful transformation because that is what this particular prison is known for, miraculous transformations. Look at the folks who write with me Marshall, Rory, James and the occasional Christopher, and Ruth ( formerly Jeff). Stories that will make you cry tears of sadness and happiness, if you got to know us, truly got to know us, you would rethink rehabilitation.
That's my hope for these "perpetrators", drop the label and I get these men, my hope for these men is that they use this amazing place to change their lives forever.
Here's to forgiveness.
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Jeff aka Ruth Utnage