I had a great talk with my roommate, Ruth, the other day and we kinda chuckled about how busy we are. But it falls in line with our need for pro social, meaningful reformation. And reformation not just for ourselves, but from those around us as well. Those that insist on a life of just sleeping, eating and screwing off in prison need not apply. So just so you, Joe Taxpayer, know that I’m not wasting any part of your dollar on self loathing, destructive or apathetic behavior, here’s a list of how my week breaks down…

Sunday- I spend all morning as a mentor in our Toastmasters International club helping young speakers develop their craft and contributing to the club leadership, an experience I cherish. I spend all afternoon with our quilting program, the Community Aide Coalition of Monroe (CAC), making quilts and other textile items for charitable organizations. Sunday nights, Ruth leaves to do her fair share of contributing to the CAC, and I take the opportunity to clean and organize our cell to match her efforts of doing the same throughout the week.

Monday- I work 5 days a week, 8 hours a day, just like many of you. I lead a crew of four men to prepare 50,000 pounds of laundry for wash a week. Last year we logged over 2.5 million pounds. Its great cardio and upper body strengthening as well as job readiness training. Monday nights I work to help guys with homework for a12 step program I attend Tuesday nights. One Monday a month I spend the evening working with incarcerated veterans to help develop fellowship among us since we make up 10 percent of the population here, a number greater than the free person demographic.

Tuesday- Work. At night I spend a few hours attending a 12 step program called Changing Thinking, Attitudes and Behaviors (C-TAB) geared at reshaping how anxiety, pain and fear effect me. I’m a two tour combat vet and I have some related baggage. Prison trauma is very similar to combat trauma and being able to pinpoint mental health components is a must for better living.

Wednesday- Work. At night I’m a facilitator for a program called Reentry Empowerment and Community Health (REACH) with guys like my buddy Marshall and we formulate tactics at destroying the convict code and release plan development so that the men and women who leave prison match your expectations of good neighbors. We work hard with folks higher up the food chain than just this prison. My special interest in this is helping my fellow veterans know resources available to them for releasing. Once a month on Wednesday morning, a few others and I meet with a University of Washington professor for exploring educational opportunities. This group is call Huskie for Opportunities of Prison Education (HOPE). We host a summer class every year and the professor tracks our ideas.

Thursday- Work. At night I attend an LGBT support group called UNITY with my dear friend Ruth. I go because this group is so extremely community based in its function that I absolutely fell in love with it. People helping people without any prerequisite other than being supportive. I truly appreciate Ruth’s passion for the community she mentors. One Thursday night a month I meet with the veterans again to discuss how to do charitable works for the community and to be of better benefit to the greater good.

Friday- Work. At night I meet with individuals who need questions answered about release, veteran’s needs, or any other question I can help with. I’ve reserved this night for any additional meetings with any other groups and once in a while, I will get a visit from my friends outside and thank God they come in to support me.

Saturday- I’m the co-secretary for the CAC, also. I spend the first hour of the morning compiling all the hours logged by our dozen quilters. Then I get to work quilting or repairing textiles for the institution. In the afternoon, I do more homework, speech writing, or preparing and organize my life for the next week. Then, at night, its back to the CAC and finally men’s night with Marshall. Just some guys who sew products for third world women (dayforgirls.org) and hear interesting love advice from a DJ named Delila while listening to adult contemporary music on the radio. You know, the real manly shit that I wouldn’t trade for anything except freedom. I love Saturday nights!

When we are celled in, I conversate with Ruthie or read or something to be more civic minded. I work my ass off, like my friends do, to not just be reformed in some way, but to be more accomplished than 75 percent of the world I’m going back to. I do my best to make the people around me better and I dig as deep as my colleagues and friends do. Rest assured, I am not, even for a moment, wasting a dime you spend on the taxes that you pay. And I promise I will be among the best neighbors you have ever had. Better for those I’m with. Better for myself. 

Rory Andes
for www.lgbtqprisonsupport.com