Because that’s all prison is… a collection of people who couldn’t follow societies laws and were judged unfit to remain in a pro-social society, outside these fences. So, now you’ve taken one subculture of society… full of drug users, drug dealers, robbers, rapists and murderers (as well as a mix of miscellaneous miscreants & degenerates, for good measure)… and packed them all together and just expect them to co-exist!

I know this may seem like an extremely volatile mash-up, but sometimes it actually functions. I mean depending on where you’re warehoused… it can seem drastically different at times. Whether you’re at a prison, that’s meant for prisoners, who are a disciplinary issue or at one of the more program-based prisons. The former adhering more to the “old way” of jailing still and the latter following more of a “new way” of jailing. (I’ll discuss both in a minute) Now, there can be a huge difference between how the two are run and even in the mentality of the prisoners & staff, at both. Of course, you also have the level system, for management. The lower the level, the more freedom that’s awarded and the higher the level, the less freedom that’s allowed. This is usually for management and disciplinary concerns. In theory, this system was created to help prisons run smoothly and effectively.

Now, you have to add in the “wild card”… prisoners! It’s really hard to account for every prisoner or speculate how each will conduct themselves, once in custody. So, here comes the society, that’s been created within the confines of the prison fences… where violence was the go-to, for so long, whenever there were any issues or discrepancies. This allowed instant consequences, for any action deemed wrong or disrespectful. This was a very aggressive and intimidating approach to maintaining order… but this was the world & atmosphere, that I encountered my 1st time in prison. (in 1994) You were required to learn quickly or be “taught’ even quicker! Honestly, as messed up as it was, it did encourage a smooth system within the population… cuz everyone knew the results of stepping out of line & the swiftness of the response, if you did.

As I said, this was 25+ years ago and as time went on, things in prison began to change. The extreme nature of most prison yards and the overall mentality of the prisoner began to change. This wasn’t always a bad thing… there was a give & take, to the evolution of the newer direction jailing was going. For the most part, you began to see a decline in the violence and you could feel the tension levels on the yard lessen. But, with this came more behavior, that was once deemed unacceptable… these behaviors were now being allowed to “slide”. (being over-looked or tolerated) This allowed for an entirely new set of issues and confusion, that prompted A LOT of b.s. … which eventually led back to more violence or a newer alternative (that was once taboo) of “locking-up”. (requesting segregation, to get off the yard and away from the issue) This brought in a whole new era of jailing, where certain things were becoming normal and/or allowable… things that NEVER would’ve been allowed in the past.

Flash ahead, a few more years… more and more people are being locked-up and/or being over-charged for crimes, that never would’ve had them seeing the inside of any prisons. And a good chunk of these are addicts, who were committing crimes… while under the influence of some substance or to try and maintain their addictions. They come to prison GROSSLY unprepared to even function within this society! Most were never real criminals, just people who got caught-up in their addictions for one reason or another. So, once they are initially removed from the substances that got them here… they soon realize that their in a criminal culture that was built up for decades on predatory behaviors & actions and people who victimized others… which led to THEIR incarceration. They were like lambs to the slaughter (who you can spot in an instance)… and inevitably many were preyed upon and victimized. This usually led them to a few choices: 1) simply fight back; 2) “lock-up” or; 3) live with it by finding some substance, to numb them and allow themselves to cope with whatever pressures their facing. It almost seems like #1 isn’t even an option most the time, these days… and #2 & #3 almost go hand-in-hand, there’s usually some combination of both. This throws them into a whole new cycle and way of jailing… where the epidemics of the streets continue to plague them in here. Don’t get me wrong, everyone isn’t a dope fiend or a coward, (although it may seem like there are A LOT of the former all the time) but this is a good chunk of what’s in prison these days.

I’ve been fortunate that over the years, I’ve learned to adjust and adapt to any situation… allowing me the ability to maneuver through this time relatively smoothly. But, even though this society was once ruled with more aggression, violence and swift justice… it did make for a more stable and controlled environment. You knew how to act or you knew what would happen! But now with the excessive # of people who’ve come to prison (a lot who never should’ve) you have a once working system being de-stabilized and the result is a bunch of individuals running around here, with no respect for themselves, (let alone anyone or anything else) who never had any structure or discipline outside these fences… existing together. And it seems like what was left was a chaotic society that’s flooded with addicts and fiend-like mentalities!

However, I will give credit to the MDOC for this, they brought the rate of violence down extremely within these fences… with their own methods & deterrents. On top of that there have been several new programs and even college opportunities (at a cost) in many facilities. They also offer support dog training programs at many facilities. All of these options have allowed for a different atmosphere, at the facilities their located. Plus, I’ve always believed that if you give someone a sense of purpose, then that person will change to meet that purpose. Even for me, I was in a bad place (refer back to my post on: Depression) and with this opportunity to write from my experiences and have a voice… I’ve found more purpose and have seen a drastic change in my daily outlook.

These are all tools that we have or can seek out to help us achieve more from this time… ways of not just surviving, but continuing to strive for more, in a world that is founded on the worst of the worst. I know this is still prison and can definitely be dangerous, at any moment… you can never lose sight of that reality. Especially nowadays, that there’s a lot more b.s. that goes unchecked, thus creating chaos… amidst any chaos you have to be able to think for all those around you, as well as yourself. That’s the only way you can see ahead and prevent someone else from doing something stupid, that can ultimately affect you. But, if you can discipline yourself and if you want it enough… you really can survive this shithole and still strive to be your best self, while not allowing these fences to dictate otherwise!

Source of image: THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO-Corrections Services Division of the Nova Scotia Department of Justice MANDATORY CREDIT

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