Cops and Robbers, Convicts and Anomalies   by  Christopher Havens 

Society has become so used to imagining “the prisoner” as exactly what the media shows you. …through movies, music, news, books, and everything in between, we have all developed a clear idea of what goes on inside prisons. My personal favorite is this: “If you ever go to prison, the first thing you do is find the biggest guy in the yard.. and punch him in the face.”. You’ve all heard that one, right? It seems like ever scenario involving cops and robbers comes with at least one sentence where the cop tells the robber how he’ll serve the next umpteen years in prison as somebody’s bitch. Ughh..

We have a name for prisoners like that.. And the REASON we have a name for prisoners like that is because there are more than one type of prisoner. We an not be lumped into one category. This is why, in my opinion, sociologists and criminologists find inconsistencies in the social hierarchy in prisons. The social dynamics in prison is a little more complicated when you realize it’s not all functioning around some “convict code”.

By my experiences, there are three different types of prisoners. The convict: Convicts are what you see in the media. The cliches. Hyper-masculine, fight first, ask questions later.. they are stuck in the convict mentality because they live and breathe by the “convict code”. The inmate: The inmate does not necessarily subscribe to the convict code, and they generally just “do their time” with as little confrontation as possible. They’re effectively being warehoused without major problems. For whatever reason, they usually steer just shy from the prison politics and stay out from under the microscope. Many pursue their education, possibly even engaging in some transformative programming, and/or religious based services. The inmates are the “norm” in a prison population. The anomaly: Anomalies are the one in a hundred type, who transcend what people believe is possible for prisoners. 

They create programs and events, and they function outside of the convict code. The anomalies often continue to contribute to society from behind the walls of their confinement.

Unfortunately, none of this is known to the broad community. Let me plant a thought. What if all we ever knew about prisons was that it is full of convicts. What happens to the person with a clean criminal record who makes a bad mistake and finds the inside of a prison cell? Since all they know about prison is that it’s full of the convict variety, that person will prepare themselves for such. Thus, we have a convict in training, before any real influence was placed on them. … What if, now, we could build an image of prison where some of the prisoners did amazing things.. and in prison, it was known that you could make choices that could positively shape your future. What would prisons look like 20 years from now?

Christopher Havens

Founder and fellow of the Prison Mathematics Project, institutionally challenged, and technologically handicapped. Enjoys mathematical research and looks forward to someday using a fork… and a straw.