I’ve taken this whole prison experience seriously. When I first fell I intended on being the badest me possible. I planned on getting shirted (a tattoo reference meaning tattooing ones entire torso, like a T-shirt), fighting, hating cops…the whole nine yards. All that changed when a series of small events occurred. Then I chose to change my life.
People became my friends and as time went on I learned to be a friend. Then, one by one they each got out and moved on with life. No contact, no reaching back in, just gone. I figured, at first, I was just bad at choosing friends because as they get out they don’t communicate with me leaving me to question whether or not we were ever really friends in the first place. But then after it happened more than a dozen times, then more than 2 dozen times, then 30 times, well, there must be something wrong with me.
I used to think it simply affirmed what I thought all along that I was broken, unworthy. I felt that my whole life. So these experiences only served to reinforce that belief because of my childhood. As my therapist would say “That’s not your fault”. So I’ll say it too, that wasn’t my fault which means I don’t have to accept it. So now I must think objectively, perhaps I’ve made great friends and I don’t understand the trauma of prison completely and when someone gets out they just want to leave this place behind.
Okay…I understand that.
But this leads me to think about my own circumstances, have I made goals I will regret completing? Like becoming a criminologist? Spending the rest of my life making this system more effective and humane? Am I too invested in the people here?
You know something, I came to the realization recently that I didn’t just have empathy for my fellow prisoners, I also have empathy for the staff. I watch them get embarrassed, frustrated, sexualized, flirtatious, angry, sad, depressed, happy, joyous, lippy…all the same things we as prisoners feel. Sometimes I just want to give them a big ol’ hug and tell them that this place does things to people, it is not a natural habitat therefore they cannot expect natural behavior, not from themselves or us.
The prison system needs to change not just for prisoners but for the staff who work here as well. Prison isn’t just “doing things” to us as prisoners, it isn’t just suppressing our dreams, it’s not just unhealthy and unnatural for us, that applies to staff as well.
But maybe I am wrong. Maybe I’ve been the fool? Maybe. I just don’t feel that traumatized by prison, that’s the one problem with that statement. I’ve chosen to view this place for what it is and instead of bottling my trauma and dealing with it post release, I deal with it now by thinking systematically and naming every element of my environment, by understanding precisely what is happening. I don’t subject myself TO prison, instead I interact WITH prison, there’s a big difference. I don’t see myself needing to get out and never look back again. Prison doesn’t scare me.
What scares me is not accomplishing my goals. Not being what I believe I am, failing. That scares me, not prison or the people in it or the people who run it. Trump and his cabinet, that scares me. The alt-right, that scares me. Neo-nationalists…they scare me, but not prison.
Perhaps that’s to my detriment? Maybe I will be like most who get out of prison and not contact the people I said “I love you” to. Perhaps the people I called sister and brother are meaningless outside of this trauma?
Maybe I have invested too much into prison.
I think not.
What do you think?
Feel free to contact me, a little human contact is always welcome
Ruth Utnage fka jeff 823469 C-601-2
PO Box 888
Monroe, WA. 98272
or via Jpay email service (you have to use my birth name, but, please do not call me by it, my new legal name is Ruth)