I have served one-hundred and two straight months in prison preceded by four-hundred and sixty two days in county jail. I grew up around, what people call, the worst of the worst. You name it, and I've seen it as a child. I am well versed in recognizing criminals and their behaviors, and I can do so fairly easily. I know their lingo and all about the culture. I can spot a criminal or a fraud in a second. My childhood and my prison stay have afforded me the ability to obtain a doctorate in understanding criminal behavior, and a post doctorate in prison culture.
Now, more to a similar but different point, I have an Associates of Arts degree, H.V.A.C/R certification, accounting certification, and many more certification and accomplishments. I have taken the most rigorous classes prison has to offer. I am academically inclined. The point is I possess the ability to recognize both sides of the prison walls. With that, prison is a different beast. The dynamics that exist in prison are unique to prison. The power, culture, and theatre all combine to form an amalgamation termed "prison culture." The power is a means to influence others, the culture allows the power to thrive, and the theatre is put on by the culture, and then there are always starring actors, whether "good" or "bad."
Having said all of that, understanding this culture is difficult so I don't blame those who volunteer here or those who are sponsors that don't know what they don't know, or can't see their "blind spots."
One blind spot that many volunteers and sponsors have is the inability spot the "bad" actors. "Bad" actors are those who know how to speak well enough to monopolize the time of sponsors and volunteers by acting, but what is interesting is that the "bad" actors aren't typically who the sponsors/volunteers think they are. Its easy for sponsors/volunteers or most anyone to spot the sorry sycophants and the self proclaimed silk tongue players, but for some reason they are unable to recognize what many other truly changed individuals can spot, such as, those who continue in illicit behavior, those who have questionable ulterior motives, and those who take programs simply for a certificate while maintaining a line of site for sponsors to chase.
Recognizing the aforementioned individuals aides in the positive progression and growth of any program because when recognized, the person can be challenged and held accountable. Many people want to be challenged and held accountable but are often not in these programs.
But, for those programs that seek advice for assistance in growing their program in a prison setting, because they have zero idea of how this culture works, obtain it and spit on it as if they are the foremost authorities is disheartening and quite frankly maddening. For those trying to facilitate true and honest progress and help incarcerated individuals, I believe rules and standards are imperative and must be held, and it would behoove sponsors/volunteers to accept the advice of the experts, much like countries that are experiencing a pandemic trust the advice of their medical experts, like patients trust their doctors to perform heart surgery, like season ticket holders trust that they will be entertained. If not, why bother asking for advice? Why bother wasting others voices? Why ask for experts to help you when YOU know what will work?
Yes, when rules are broken and standards are challenged, we are all human and deserve many chances at life and success, however, in that same breath there has to be a line drawn and when you cross to the other side, you should be on that side. Returning to the other side is surely an option, but it should require more than a simple I'm sorry. If forgiveness is that easy, then I learned my lesson years ago, but of course I'm still in prison. There, in my opinion, needs to be some event in the blank space between event and forgiveness, a substantial event that can be noticed and quantified by others. And sometimes, just sometimes you may miss out on something great, but when your time comes again you will be prepared.
Programs in prison need to be used for transformation and growth, and many programs are doing such, but in order to brave this long and arduous journey you have to be attentive and receptive to the sound advice provided.
(DIGRESSION) There is however another way to make it and that is to be backed by some powerful entity, which alleviates many woes of the entry into this arena, but that's another story for another day.
To be as transparent as I'm willing to be, I have and continue to be overlooked and it hurts sometimes, and I get mad sometimes. I play the most prominent role in my being overlooked sometimes, however, that which prompts me to feel like I'm without worth and like my most vulnerable contributions are relegated to some waste runoff of some sub par product makes it hard to recover mentally from any particular environment in which this is experienced.
I read a lesson in a great book that I worked in, and it said listen to the quiet ones they have some thing to say worth listening to, and I've learned to take sound advice.
My name means what it means:
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