Community Contact For Prisoners Is Just Like Click Treating For Dogs    by    Ruth Utnage

One of the hardest things for me to cope with is not enough community contact. The lack of letters for months and years on end is debilitating at times and I end up spending vast amounts of mental resources learning to deal with such realities. After all, I must learn to move on. While my fellow prisoners have become family to me and we depend on one anothers emotional support, nothing replaces what we are isolated from, you.

Volunteers trickle in from the community to run various programs which are always packed with long waiting lists, especially those that have prolonged and direct human contact with outside, or “free world”, people. This causes great concern for me because I know how desperate I am for meaningful contact and I’m not the only one. Take a program, get contact. Don’t take a program, don’t get contact. It just so happens that one of the biggest lures available is religious practices. I’ll leave you to decide if that’s a good thing or not, I’m not presenting religion as good or bad. I am, however, presenting that here we have a truly vulnerable demographic (inmate) who has an inarguable need for meaningful contact with “society” and it is used as a reward.

Granted, I doubt it’s intentional, nobody’s behind the scenes rubbing palms together and plotting psychological torment. Nobody, specifically, is responsible and can be held accountable. This is simply a consequence, not an intention of a system that is, in my humble opinion, outdated. But what do I know, I just live here.

What I do know for sure is that I’ve been asking for more visitors, letters, emails, phone calls and mentorship and those things don’t come and it hurts. It makes me feel as if I am no longer welcome in society which is a scary feeling seeing as how I am set for release next year. I do know that when I take a program and get to speak, however brief, with a free-world person, I feel better but eventually grow resentful that contact always come with a price, performance and/or belief. Believe in what I say, prove yourself valuable to me and I’ll spend just a little more time with you, prove invaluable or have differing beliefs and I’ll ignore you for others who will.

I never feel more animalistic than when I hope for someone to contact me.

Can’t wait to be free.

With Love
Ruth Utnage

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