Question: Does a prisoner have to better themselves in prison?

Answer: No. Everyone has choices. Many who come to prison choose to not do something that will better them. Most *CHOOSE* to do near nothing. They lift weights, play cards, gamble on sports, or get involved in prison gang garbage. Some choose to better themselves.

Environment has a lot to do with what a prisoner chooses to do with their time. Besides environment, culture has a lot to do with what they choose. When prisoners are in environments that make them feel unsafe or threatened they are not thinking about how to be better versions of themselves, they are instead thinking about how to feel safe. This often involves adapting to the environment or to stronger, more intimidating personalities. Do what others do, blend in, don’t draw attention…stay safe.

Others become more violent, be the predator, be scary, large, intimidating. Be something other predators don’t want to tangle with.

All this information is somewhat obvious. But what if I told you there are environments where there are no real threats?

There are prisons where violence is fairly low. Almost nonexistent. You would think that prisoners there rehabilitate there at a higher rate. *Some* do. But it’s mostly untrue. Why? Because “threats” don’t always come from inmates. Officers conduct is also at play. Cultural disapproval (being outcast from the group for one reason or another) is also a factor. But I still hold the belief that if we came here because we have victimized others than we owe it to the community to rehabilitate, no matter the circumstances.

It’s the prisons where violence is fairly low and some prisoners choose to not better themselves that I find major fault though, where the onus us entirely on the prisoner. When one feels physically safe, socially accepted and supported, and still chooses to only workout, play cards, and watch sports while skipping books or learning some new skill…I find serious flaw with that. Mostly because there is example after example around those people who *are* rehabilitating in some fashion.

I know people who are nice people, good people even, but can’t stop themselves from popping pills and looping in and out of cyclic behavior. While I care for them I also know I cannot keep them in my circle of close friends because I cannot be associated with those who choose to do nothing with their lives.

I think it’s our duty to the community to rehabilitate while in prison. While the prison system doesn’t have a definition for rehabilitation or justice we, as formerly and currently incarcerated, owe it to everyone to provide physical examples of what that looks like, at least.

Just my take.

With Love
Ruth Utnage