love a Prisoner or not to love a Prisoner – Is this a question to ask
yourself? For some, loving a Prisoner is a fact of life.
For some, it is a realization yet to happen. For
some, it would be a fate worse than death!
this the most atrocious thing that one could consider?
How on earth could you love a Prisoner?
Are you crazy? What
kind of life do you have, or will you have?
They are criminals! How
could you? Walk away now! Can’t you find someone that is not in prison?
What did they do? How do you know that you are safe? If they were worth anything they would not be in prison.
the last two years I have heard just about every possible reaction and
objection that you can imagine. I
realize these friends and family members are looking out for my best
interests, but now I also realize that their comments are generalized
opinion, which is shared by the masses and not based on knowledge of fact.
never quite fit the category of the person who would think it atrocious to
love a Prisoner, but I do believe that my attitudes have changed
significantly over the last couple of years in regard to Prisoners.
Two years ago in fact I was one of the ones where loving a Prisoner
was a realization yet to happen. Two
years ago I did not know anyone in prison or that had ever been in prison. I was naïve to the world of incarceration, to prisons, to
the lingo, to the atrocities of conditions and most of all I was naïve to
the degree of love and commitment that could be reached by loving a
Prisoner. I was blind to the
fact that a Prisoner is more than just their crime.
many of us a Prisoner is a mother, father, brother, sister, friend or
significant other. It is
someone that we love, and someone that has been and is a substantial part
of our lives. To some, Prisoners are the lowest of the low, and are where
they should be based on what they have done.
For those that are not personally connected to a Prisoner, they
have no other reference than the fact that this individual wronged society
and they are paying for their crime.
These people tend to lump together all Prisoners in one category,
and do not see the differentiation from the level of prison security, to
the type of crime. These
people are our worst nightmare. These
people generalize that all Prisoners are the same and deserve equal
treatment. This is not the
case and it is in my experience one of the hardest generalizations to get
past. Our loved one - our
Prisoner - (regardless of the
crime) could be a cellmate with a murderer, rapist, white-collar criminal,
drug offender, a violent offender or a non-violent offender.
Our loved one is surely one of these categories or one that I have
not listed here, but all of these Prisoners are walking the same halls and
sharing the same cells. There is no differentiation allotted by the prison system, so
how can we expect the general public to understand this differentiation?
They will not. We are plagued with ignorant ideas and representations of
Prisoners because of the system.
Prisoner is first and foremost a human being. There are many Prisoners
that have committed crimes so heinous that even I will say “throw away
the key”! But even these
Prisoners are human beings. All Prisoners were born of a mother that I am going to
blindly say loved them. We
are all from a family of sorts, and Prisoners may or may not have people
in that family that still love and care for them.
You see if I ask “What is a Prisoner”, we must also include in
the mix the family and friends of this Prisoner.
These family and friends essentially become Prisoners too.
They are treated differently by society and in many cases hide from
society. So, if every
Prisoner is a human being then we must regard and respect Prisoners as
such. We must understand that
all Prisoners are capable of thought, emotion, pain, suffering, faith or
religion, remorse and rehabilitation.
All Prisoners at least deserve the opportunity of becoming better
as human beings. All
Prisoners families and loved ones also deserve at least the respect that
we would give any other human being.
are our loved ones in prison? This
is an interesting question. Many
will debate that it does not matter what the circumstances were, the
individual made a choice of conduct and knew the consequences of making
that choice. You did the crime and you should do the time.
I agree. I agree that
if you commit a crime that you should be punished and in most cases
regardless of the circumstance. I
will never say that if you were under the influence of drugs or alcohol
that you are not responsible for your crime. You are. But, in
many circumstances you were not in control for that moment, and it was not
YOU that committed the crime but the influence of drugs or alcohol.
Anger and crimes of passion can be looked upon in the same way in
my mind. I do believe that a
person can be so jealous and/or so angry that they can commit a crime that
otherwise they are not capable of committing.
There are many circumstances like these that I would defend as not
the ‘individual’ committing the crime but an “influence”
committing the crime. The
individual is still responsible for the crime but an ‘influence’
caused them to commit the crime and it was not necessarily premeditated.
Am I trying to justify crime committed in this way?
No, of course not. What I am trying to show here is that there are often outside
influences in our lives that affect our behaviour. Even the most calm and complacent individual can find
themselves in a situation of desperation, anger, or a drug induced state
that causes an inability to judge right from wrong.
Should these people be punished?
Yes, but let’s look at the root cause of the crime and work to
fix that root cause. If the
crime is a result of drug or alcohol abuse then let’s work to fix that. If the crime is a result of anger then let’s work with an
anger management program. There
are many reasons that we commit crimes that are influenced by environment,
circumstance, or otherwise induced state and they need to be looked at as
such. Is this person that
committed a crime under the influence that has received proper treatment
going to re-offend? It is
always a possibility, but we don’t have programs in place to
rehabilitate and measure the success of such programs.
Ask yourself however, that if these programs did exist would they
make sense? Would they work? Would
we have a more productive society if we cared enough to help our fellow
man pick up and start over? Now
don’t get me wrong here, as I am not suggesting that people committing
crimes under an influence should not be incarcerated.
Incarcerate them, but rehabilitate them and offer them programs to
address the root cause. Most
of our current Prisoners will be released one day and rehabilitation would
be in the best interest of society.
we have to also consider premeditated crime.
Planned crime. Is this
a different kind of crime? Yes.
Planned crime is and should be punished the way our correctional
system is set up. This is
more indicative and deserving of our system of incarceration today. Does this crime have a root cause like the “influenced”
crime I speak of above? Yes.
Can we treat or rehabilitate this individual?
Yes. This however is a
much further reaching debate, and has too many possibilities to discuss
here. This kind of crime
however does stretch across all types of crime from murder to fraud. Violent and non-violent crime is also found in this category.
Again, we don’t have the programs or the measures in place to
even offer a chance at change and success.
must also consider the innocents that are in prison.
I truly believe that most people don’t wish to consider that this
is a problem or a reality. It
is. Especially with the
development of DNA testing we are seeing more and more innocently
convicted ‘criminals’ released from prison.
Media coverage is somewhat subdued when this is happening.
Media is more interested in the sensationalism of the crime and
punishment aspect and not the plight of one wrongly accused and
the question was why are our loved ones in prison?
They are there for many reasons.
But remember that these Prisoners and their reasons for
incarceration are as different in each individual case as are the
differences that exist between those hundreds of people in any crowd, in
any shopping mall in the country, at any given moment.
is another provoking thought. Many
people ‘on the outside’ of the prison walls have committed crimes.
Many of us have stolen as a child.
Many of us have been involved in illicit drug use and perhaps sales
of the same. Many of us have
cheated or committed fraud against another.
Many of us have driven under the influence.
Many of us have done harm to another.
What is the difference between them and us – the Prisoners in our
prisons? We did not get
caught. The point that I am
attempting to make here is that our prisons are full of people that got
caught committing a crime. You
and I and our neighbors may be just as guilty but escaped or hidden our
involvement and exposure of it. Before
you condemn a Prisoner, look into your own past or look at your neighbor
– could you or could they be just as guilty?
know from a management perspective in corporate America that you cannot
‘manage’ effectively every individual in the same way.
Each individual is unique and has unique ways of processing
information as well as acting on that information.
In corporate America we accept this fact and we design our
management, training, and discipline systems to address this fact.
Why have our prisons and correctional systems not kept pace with
this reality? Why do we think
that one punishment fits all crimes?
Why do we think that all Prisoners are of the same motivation and
affected by the same stimulus? Our
prison system is archaic and is failing us by not being forward thinking
and progressive. We are reactive rather than proactive. This is wrong.
Prisoners are as different as each leaf on a tree.
No two are exactly the same. We
will continue to lock together violent and non-violent offenders.
If we are a product of our environment, (an old adage) then what
will become of the non-violent offender when locked in close quarters with
the habitually violent offender? Guess.
One may argue that the non-violent offender can equally affect the
disposition of the violent offender.
Yes this is true, but it will depend on who is the stronger and the
more dominate of the two. Who do you think will usually win? Guess. The
definition on insanity is doing the same thing again and again and
expecting a different result. Is
this not what our correctional system is doing?
They are doing the same thing that they have always done and they
don’t understand why the result is not different.
Makes you think doesn’t it?
of you who have children (especially if you have more than one) know that
one strategy of encouragement, reward, and/or discipline does not work on
each child equally. This is
the same reasoning adopted by corporate America to recognize differences
of individuals in the development of management strategy.
Why then would this strategy of one crime, one punishment work on
one crime one punishment strategy leads us to what prison life is like.
Well, truthfully I have not spent a day in prison – outside of a
prison visiting room – but I will offer my perspective.
is cold. Prison is sterile of
any color outside of the depressing.
Prison is emotionless. Prison
is lonely. Prison is unforgiving. Prison
is frightening. Prison is
angry. Prison is loveless.
Prison is violent. Prison is dominance over the weak. Prison is looking over your shoulder. Prison is 20 plus hours a day spent in a 6X8-foot room.
Prison is no wall around your toilet.
Prison is void of any privacy.
Prison is sharing that 6X8-foot cell with someone that you don’t
like and never will. Prison
is being separated from the love of your family.
Prison is expensive collect phone calls that you family pay for.
Prison is a phone call to family that lasts five minutes every
ninety days. Prison is a
family visit that only lasts 20 minutes and is behind glass.
Prison is leaving your significant other and kids behind. Prison is hoping with all you heart that you will receive
mail today. Prison is
tasteless food with insufficient time to eat it.
Prison is never knowing if you are going to be violated - or by
who. Prison is worrying that
your significant other may find another while you are incarcerated. Prison is worrying that your children may forget or disown
you. Prison is watching
relationships that you once had fade.
Prison is frustration with no outlet.
Prison is crying yourself to sleep without sound so that no one
knows you are crying. Prison
is beating the system to survive. Prison
is becoming the person and doing the things that you never thought
yourself capable of being or doing. Prison
is remorse. Prison is regret. Prison
is shutting down your brain to the reality of existence and dreaming of a
better place. Prison is
seeing things that you never wanted to see.
Prison is abuse. Prison
is disease. Prison is rape. Prison is Gang related activity.
Prison is emotional breakdown.
Prison is stripping the individual of any feeling of worth. Prison
is about authority exercised by the system over the Prisoner.
Prison is about rules and regulations that change daily and without
warning or explanation. Prison is about dominating our fallen angels to a point of
submission. Prison is a sub
culture and way of life that is sometimes worse than the original crime.
Prison is a world of its own with tolerances exercised on both
sides of the system – the Authority and the Prisoner.
Prison is about contraband, supply and demand, goods and services
that are prohibited, drugs, alcohol, violence, sex and rape.
In a free society such as ours, our prisons are an atrocity and an
insult to anyone with intelligence if you think that this system addresses
a need or approaches a solution to reduce recidivism.
is not all bad, nor am I advocating prison reform.
Prison is what prison is, but we must recognize first and foremost
that these Prisoners are people. They
are human beings. Punishment
is a necessary part of our freedom, our government and society, but is
punishment best served by our current system?
I am not going to answer that question myself.
I will leave that to you – the reader – to decide.
It is not until you know and love a Prisoner that you will have an
appreciation for the life of a Prisoner.
Again, if they did the crime, then even I believe that they should
do the time. How the time is
done and how the system is operated is however of fundamental concern.
I will never advocate “Country Club” systems and in some
circumstances our Prisoners have too many privileges.
The problem is that the privileges that they have are not the right
ones. The privileges that
they need and can make a difference are seldom given.
What do they need? I am an advocate of emotional health. Prisoners need to build and maintain emotional health.
We stunt this part of the Prisoner when we incarcerate them.
Prisoners need to maintain healthy contact with their loved ones. Prisoners need to count on that contact, as it is the only
emotional contact they will experience while incarcerated.
Remember that one day these Prisoners are going to be released and
if you have deprived these individuals with rational and emotional contact
how will they cope when they come out?
What kind of stress does this present to loved ones and society?
Strong emotional health is one of the most fundamental needs of a
human being next to food and water. Emotional
health keeps us balanced and functioning in a reasonable way. Lock someone up and starve him or her of a basic instinctual
need and what happens? Human
beings are social animals and we need contact.
We need love. We need
emotional ties and feelings. If
Prisoners need any one privilege it is to have greater access to their
loved ones whether through letters, phone or personal visits.
Record the calls, videotape the visit, even post one Guard on every
Prisoner in the visiting room – just allow greater contact to build and
maintain these critical relationships with loved ones.
Next in line and need are programs of education, skill training,
and life counseling. Our Prisoners need to be challenged intellectually and
physically while serving time. These
challenges will develop skills that if present in the first place, may
have kept them out of prison. Many
programs are needed, far too many to list here.
Prisons today are an industry and they manufacture their own raw
ingredients by stunting the current Prisoner’s future success. By doing this the Prison industry is guaranteed a recurring
recidivism rate to feed their industry, keep jobs in place and strengthen
economies where the prisons are located.
Keep them down and keep them coming back! Keep our Wardens, our Correctional Officers, our prison
administrative people and all the related industry jobs gainfully
employed. If the number of
jobs that are currently involved with the prison system were in danger
because we instituted programs and rehabilitation to Prisoners that would
actually keep them out of prison – what would we do?
Where would all these people work?
Gosh, I don’t want to ask that question because one person’s
employment in my mind does not warrant the gross treatment of our
Prisoners and a system that is designed to breed and feed itself a
revolving product. Crime as
we know it today could stop and it would be decades before the prisons
that we have today would be negatively affected because we already bring
back most of those that are ever released!
a Prisoner presents challenges. The
word challenge does not really cover the degree to which you are tested
when you love a Prisoner. When
you love a Prisoner you too are in prison.
You as family member, friend or significant other will ‘do the
time’ with the Prisoner. Whether
this is someone that you knew prior to incarceration – in the case of a
family member or spouse – or someone that you met after incarceration -
as a pen pal or through visitation groups or ministries - you will have
challenges in your life.
man or woman that you love and care for created victims through their
crime, but in a similar sense you as the Prisoner’s loved one left
behind become a victim. I know that this will enrage many people that read this
statement. Think of it this
way. You are the mother or
the father and you love your son. You
have a happy and healthy family life.
Your family has never been in trouble with the law.
Your son makes a critical mistake in judgement and -violent or
non-violent - commits a crime. You
did not see this coming. It
blindsided you. Do you stop
loving your son when he is tried, convicted, and sent to prison?
No. Same situation
goes for a significant other or a friend.
Sometimes we just don’t see it coming and it just happens. Thankfully the innocently convicted have been able to retain
the love and support of their friends and family to fight for their rights
– you see if someone is thrown in prison it does not mean that we forget
them. Every Prisoner is more
than just their crime. Every
Prisoner potentially has someone that is broken hearted and missing him or
her no matter how heinous their crime.
I know this is a large pill for some to swallow but it is true.
Even the worst of the criminally insane may have someone that cares
for them. Victims have rights
and so do the families and loved ones of the convicted.
ones of Prisoners fall into depressions.
They lose jobs and they lose property when the loss of income is
realized. They lose friends and often times the support of other family
members that don’t understand their love and commitment to a Prisoner.
Loved ones of Prisoners are shunned by society.
Kids of Prisoners have problems in school.
Men and women alike who’s significant others are incarcerated
hold the home front and pray for their safety and security.
Loved ones of Prisoners lead a secret life for fear of exposure and
unnecessary grief from society. If
your loved one committed a crime then how can you be trusted?
Many significant others of Prisoners have lost jobs just because
they are associated with someone that has been involved in criminal
activity. Association does
not mean participation, acceptance or even knowledge of criminal behavior
prior to the crime being committed.
a Prisoner is a challenge daily. Loving
a Prisoner is a frustrating road of worry, doubt, depression, fear,
anxiety, and abuse by a system that is not set up to punish us -
but it does just the same. Loving a Prisoner is waiting for a
letter or a phone call that sometimes does not come. Loving a Prisoner is
calling the prison when that letter or phone call does not come, and being
treated like pond scum when all you want to know is that they are alive
and well. Loving a Prisoner is visiting either behind glass or with
contact, but supervised, video taped and regulated down to the length of
the shorts that you wear in the summer.
Loving a Prisoner is about unconditional love, support and respect
for a human being regardless of their crime - for a Prisoner is more than
just their crime. Loving a
Prisoner is crossing state borders and driving hundreds of miles for a
2-hour visit. Loving a
Prisoner is supporting them through their hell and knowing that a simple
hug would help but is impossible to give.
Loving a Prisoner is watching them grieve when a parent or loved
one passes and they say goodbye in solitude behind bars.
Loving a Prisoner is sending them a videotape of the funeral so
that they can have closure.
a Prisoner is the best experience of my life!
Loving a Prisoner is coming to know them through the written word
and developing a mental and emotional intimacy that most people never
share with someone that they love. Loving
a Prisoner has taught me tolerance, patience, respect, forgiveness, and
about sincerity, truth, unconditional love and most of all about the human
condition. Now, loving a
Prisoner is the most rewarding experience of my life.
I have been in love before, but I have never achieved such an
astounding level of love and commitment with anyone before in my life.
Loving a Prisoner is all about communication and the sharing of
thoughts, hopes and dreams because other than the emotion of love,
communication is all that you have. Loving
a Prisoner keeps you isolated from mainstream society because they don’t
understand. A person comes to
terms with this isolation and becomes somewhat self sufficient in order to
deal with this life and choice of love.
Loving a Prisoner opens your eyes to prison life and the inadequacy
of the system based on what it is there to accomplish.
This too you learn to accept as time goes on.
Loving a Prisoner alienates you from society in general because
they just don’t get it.
and family are one of the biggest challenges when loving a Prisoner.
I have told some people the full scenario, and others just know
that my significant other is currently living in a different state.
I hide from the truth with most people because I understand that
other than with the people that I trust the most, I will become the talk
at the water cooler, at parties, and anywhere where I am not.
You will become an item of interest and speculation.
You will be regarded as weird or different.
People will ask you why you are doing this?
You become the ‘joke’ and realize this when the conversation
stops when you walk in the room. I
have lived my life as a minority to society and have suffered ridicule
because of my minority status. I
have come to terms with the fact that if people don’t understand, agree
or approve then they make fun and ostracize in defense of ‘their way’.
I am accustomed to this kind of treatment so it has absolutely no
affect on me. For some it
does, it has tremendous affect. This
kind of gossip and whispering behind the back can devastate peoples self
worth and feeling of community and/or being accepted. This
treatment is unfair and unnecessary and these people should look into
their own lives before they treat others with a lack of dignity and
respect. I realize that some
people don’t intend any harm and that this situation is novel and a good
opening line at a party or over coffee, but it hurts to be the subject of
the latest gossip – even when harm is not intended.
Loving a Prisoner is not a crime.
Loving a Prisoner is human – nothing more and nothing less.
It is Ok to love a Prisoner.
the beginning I was concerned with what peoples perceptions were regarding
my love for a Prisoner and as time goes by it does not matter much
anymore. I think that the
novelty of the situation has worn off for me too!
I think that what I said above about being a ‘minority’ who has
always been to a certain extent chastised by society has helped me cope
with this less known, less accepted love story.
I think that this is a main reason why I am at a point of not
caring what society in general thinks or how they perceive the situation.
I do however not want to walk away and hide, nor do I want to fight
society with my choice. So
how in fact do we break free from the common perceptions of what a
Prisoner is? I don’t think
that loving a Prisoner would matter if we could educate society to the
fact that the definition of a Prisoner is not common from one Prisoner to
another as well as the fact that no one Prisoner is solely defined by
their crime. Now how do we do
this? That is a question that
will be difficult to answer and even more difficult to put an action plan
into place. Society and
people in general have preconceived ideas and opinions based on limited
knowledge and fact. People
are ignorant to the depth and scope and the differences that exist between
Prisoners. I will not name any one person that is currently incarcerated
but we are all aware that there are men and women that are currently
locked up that are beyond rehabilitation and troubled psychologically
beyond repair. Some of these
people have committed crimes so heinous and we know that if they were let
back into society would commit the same or equally heinous act again.
The fact that an individual can commit a crime so terrible and
could commit the same act again means to me that their incarceration
(whatever the sentence) is a fitting punishment.
This however does not eliminate the fact that this individual may
be loved or may be capable of giving love.
This individual is still human, first and foremost.
The general population must come to terms with the fact that there
are Prisoners in our system that have committed crimes against others that
are not heinous, and these individuals are capable of seeing their
mistake, feeling remorse for their act (violent or non-violent) and can be
rehabilitated into active society as contributing members.
Inmate, Convict… These are
all words that are used as labels to identify an individual that is
incarcerated. The word “Prisoner” is just that – a label.
Prisoners are people who have committed crimes.
One word however cannot describe the individual crime, the
motivation to commit that crime, the severity of the crime, whether the
crime was violent, who that person was or could be, or whether that
“Prisoner” will likely commit a crime again in the future.
To make my point think of the word “tree”.
When each and every person thinks of the word tree you will have a
different image in your mind than someone else.
Some of you will think of pine trees or evergreens, some will think
of birch trees, some will think of oak or maple trees, and some of you
will think of palm trees. There
are thousands of types of trees in the world and every person that thinks
of the word tree will probably have a different tree in mind.
What is my point? We
know that the word tree is just a label for many different species of
trees and we generally accept it. We
know that the difference is there because we all know that a palm tree
will not grow in Alaska! We
know that the word is a label and that all the ‘trees’ in the world
are not the same. Some have
different needs from others. They
are all individually different. Why
do we as a society not know this about Prisoners?
Why do we choose to accept that each and every one of them is the
same as the next? We must get
I am not going to validate the statistic that I am about to quote because
although I read it somewhere I don’t remember where so please take it as
you will. Basically, it was stated that if the current rate of
incarceration that is experienced in the United States continues on its
upward rate that by 2050 ( or there about ) 50% of the American population
will be in prison! Do we have
to wait for this to happen – where one in ever two Americans is in
prison – before we understand that all Prisoners are not alike?
I hope not. I would
liken this dilemma with many other experiences in life.
Until you have experienced a situation first hand (or done
considerable research on the subject) you will have opinions that are
perhaps not correct and perhaps down right wrong.
Sometimes it takes first hand experience to come to terms and
really understand what the truth of the situation is.
I do believe that even if our incarcerated numbers continue to
increase there will be the segments of society that will always look upon
a Prisoner as a Prisoner – there will never be a consideration that one
could be different from another.
how did I come to this place in my life where I love a Prisoner?
Does that really matter? For
some I have learned it does. People
want to know the how and why and what of the situation and I suppose this
is an attempt to understand, or because they have never known this
situation in their life. They
are curious. Well, the short
version of the story is that I was looking for a pen pal and found an
Internet site that listed prison pen pals.
This site intrigued me and I read ads with interest and decided to
write two Prisoners. Both wrote back and one soon stopped writing for reasons
unknown. The other continued
to write and all I can say is that “love happened” somewhere about the
six month mark while exchanging letters.
Was I looking for love – gosh no.
Did I even consider it an option when I started writing?
Gosh, no. Am I
incapable of love in a so-called socially acceptable normal situation? Gosh, no. I have
had healthy relationships with people that are not incarcerated and I am a
mentally healthy individual that is professional and living a happy life
with a nice lifestyle overall. I
am not weird, I am not strange, and I don’t run home and hide in my home
and lock myself away from society. I
am the ‘normal’ next door neighbor that you would never suspect would
fall in love with a Prisoner – or so you thought!
I am the friend that you have to dinner on a regular basis and go
camping with, or travel with. I
am the colleague at work that you have lunch with.
I am they person that you trust to watch your home and pets when
you are away. You leave your kids with me when you go out.
I am just that person that you would never suspect as loving a
see, we have come full loop now – the loop that I go through with my
friends when they find out about my secret love.
You see my friends see me as normal, and then I expose this secret
love and after their initial shock and novelty, I explain all of the above
and they still ask – why?
Why would you love a Prisoner?
There is that general word again – Prisoner. Some people will never get it!
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