I heard a powerful perspective from a man serving a life sentence. He explained a little bit about his background and his family. He talked about how a conflict that he had with his sister that uncovered some truth and the “ah-ha” moment he had about their childhoods and growing up. It goes like this…

He is number four of eight kids. His father is elderly and in poor health and his mother passed a few years ago. His oldest sister now holds the matriarchy. She, by default, became the family hub. They had all grown up in a violent home and he knows that its a component for his behavior. In a visit they had recently, his sister complained about life and how rotten things are. He describes her as a “glass half empty” type of personality.

Her personality pushed his buttons through her negative talk and he ended their visit. After a few hours and soul searching, it hit him like a ton of bricks the violent home created troubled children. One who’s own violence gave birth to a life sentence in prison and one who became a chronic pessimist. As it turns out, their parents had both been in trouble with the law in their youth and were raised by the system in some way. Her negative attitude and his violence were both a product of growing up dysfunctional, from dysfunctional parents. Wash, rinse, repeat…

But that’s not his real epiphany. The real light went off when it occurred to him that prison saved his life. He is in a position in here to fix

his violent streak. He now has the resources and self help programs to heal from his childhood traumas. He talked about how sorry he is that his sister doesn’t have the support he so readily has. The empathy he conveyed was overwhelming and he considers himself the lucky one.

This kind of conversation makes me think real hard about how we use this opportunity in prison wisely. And yes, it is an opportunity. A chance to improve ourselves, reinvent our goals and rebuild our lives. I know that not everybody has the chance to in the free world. Or if they do, they simply don’t know how. If everyone were a bridge builder, our social infrastructure would be stronger than it is. And if we all could pinpoint the damages, we could work on fixing them. They guy I talked to found a rebirth and has given rise to a better him, full of insights his life didn’t have before. Now, how do we make a better you, a better community? Give some of your own insights…

by Rory Andes

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