I write quite a bit about the things prisons everywhere could do differently to improve recidivism rates. It often leaves me wondering if it sounds as though I believe special treatment should occur. I admit, there are times when I do think that, to a limited extent. Most of the time I am just trying to do the right thing in a place that is designed to make you fail.

When I refer to special treatment I am thinking of access to qualified psychological help, check into what we get now and you would be appalled…no really. We are getting undergrads practicing criminal psychology under the direction of one psychologist whom we see once, if at all. I also think of things like education. Hot button for some, I know.

Some would argue we are treated too good. I get that, I do not agree with that but I do get it. Funny story, when I was free I was working on designing a wrist device that would measure your electrical output, if possible, and assign that device a unique ID. The point being that whomever you came in contact with would set off a signal to a mainframe that would log who you touched, how long, who was around you, and how many times the contact occurred. This would work in tandem with the cameras making it impossible to get away with rape or assaults or a handshake…which is also illegal in prison. I never quite got the traction though. Then I came to prison and I understand how abusive such a device would have been.

You see, the problem with the dehumanization of inmates (assigning numbers, not allowing physical contact, using clickers to communicate- yes that happens here, we are being click trained…like dogs-, yelling at us for speaking with our neighbors, etc) is that people aren’t genetically prepared for this setting. The problems we face are unique and unnatural, thus, the need unique solutions, unique treatment.

I have a problem believing I have justifiable anger. Its not like I didn’t know prison would suck. I have to say though, TV doesn’t do an accurate job of portraying the typical inmate nor incarcerated life. You have zero idea how incarceration affects your psyche until you realize that you react differently then your loved ones to situations.

Like contact with the outside world. Man…what an anxiety ridden emotional roller coaster that is. When you lose every friend you ever had, you have a tendency to really push those boundaries. Especially when it comes to romance. I have no romantic outlet, so I explore that with what seems to me natural conversation. Not good when your just friends. But that’s the problem, we have no way of actually knowing because we don’t get visual cues to draw from, only written and direct statements- something that seems to be a dying practice these days.

I don’t know. I know that I go up for release in November of 2021. Hopefully I can effectively prove my changes to a group of total strangers and summarize ten years of intensive cognitive change in a 10 minute meeting. Then I get to go home, God willing. I can’t wait to go home…wherever that will be then.

With Love
Jeff Utnage