Sunday, March 14, 2021

Helping The Socially Averse During Incarceration Become Prosocial by Ruth Utnage

An offender spending all or most of their time inside their cell is not good. Not only does it socially isolate them enabling potentially unhealthy, or otherwise socially unacceptable, habits to go unchecked it also limits the offenders ability to do simple things like ask for help. The inability to ask for help is perhaps one of the number one causes for criminality. Think about that. Spending time away from others, isolating from the prison environment may sound safer but the long-term impacts of that on ones psyche can be costly.

An individual that stay inside their cell are referred to as a "house mouse". Some might view this as smart but after 10 years inside I can tell you it is a sign of refusing to adapt and in most cases, change. We must learn to adapt to our environment. That does not mean adapting to immoral devalued ways or practices. It does mean looking for the good, not just avoiding the bad. Being afraid to socialize, for whatever the reasons, is not in anyone's long-term best interest. We are designed for social interaction.

This has become a point of discussion here on HumanMe because these socially averse house mice are very, very human and often disenfranchised. Also, I like the concept that if someone takes a step in the right direction to help themselves I think taking step towards them to help is warranted. I am watching just such an occurrence transpire.

A guy never left his house. He slept all day, no socializing, no friends. When he did come out to eat, as little as possible, he would say something awkward, usually asking if someone else stayed up until 2 a.m. watching anime, to which he was usually met with a barrage of blank stares. Self-conscious, he would crawl back into his bed and succumb to his obvious depression. This went on for months.

Then I watched as someone loud, obnoxious, and clearly incompatible with this hermits lifestyle get moved in. The new guy was bossy and demanding at first, I could hear him. But not mean or demeaning, just clear about what it was gonna take to live compatibly with him. Simple things like needing to leave when he wants to use the restroom (we have toilets in our cells here) and not sleeping all afternoon, giving him at least a little space to be alone, a rare occurrence in prison believe it or not. Over a short amount of time I watched as our units house mouse sat in the day room committing himself to some small project, staying awake to live peaceably with his new cellmate. Slowly people begin to interact with him. First a simple knuckle rap on the table, not a threatening gesture but a friendly acknowledgement. Then a question about what he's working on, what else does he create, where did he learn that and, oh yeah, what's your name?

Just like that I suddenly have a new respect for the loud obnoxious gangster that moved in with him. I see the daylight of humanity in the nocturnal house mouse and the heart within the heartless thug. Perhaps if I can find the joy in these people and present them to you, maybe you will try and do the same.

Maybe.

To help support or share in my release, please visit my gofundme created by some unusually wonderful folx in the community at:

https://www.gofundme.com/f/support-ruth-utnages-reentry-after-prison

Thanks.

With Love
Ruth 



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