7
   

My Shawshank Redemption

 
 
Reply Tue 11 Nov, 2008 06:37 pm
My Shawshank Redemption

Quote:
Next September will mark my 20th year in jail. It is not an anniversary I'm particularly proud of. I was convicted of murder and hopelessly sentenced to life without the possibility of parole.

When I arrived at the infamous Pelican Bay Prison, I was shocked right out of my criminal-minded circuit of stupidity. The flow of in-house narcotics profits didn't appeal to me anymore. My drug-dealing days had already brought me to terrestrial hell.

Like the majority of prisoners on the yard, I just wanted to do my time as trouble-free as possible. I simply wanted to build on the better part of me, redeem whatever part of me was possible.

That desire to build on the better part of me swelled, but with little comfort and no outlet. With fervent disillusion, I came to see the California Department of Corrections (CDC) as nothing more than an empty shell.

It's a colossal department with two overriding modes of operation: 1) behavior control with a heavy stick as its main prod; and 2) the fostering of survival of fittest, thus encouraging a cut-throat atmosphere of criminal cronyism. In other words, if you don't join a clique, you could be swallowed up as a loner in the predatory food chain.

Ironically, it wasn't until I found myself in trouble (for being too friendly with a nurse), that I was transferred to the state prison in Los Angeles County, host of the Prison Honor Program.

Suddenly, my lack of cognitive stimulation and productivity was turned on its head. There was such a wide array of self-help opportunities to choose from, I didn't know where to start: yoga, creative writing, critical thinking, painting, and many other classes and activities.

I also experienced a different type of peer pressure. My first day out, I was approached by a succession of other prisoners, echoing the same guidance as the first guy: "We don't 'bang' here; we don't play [prison] politics, racial or any other kind; and we respect every one, including the guards." That speech has been an indelible part of my daily living for the past six years.

To my amazement, not a single class was racially segregated. Everyone interacts and we've come to understand one another better. On the yard, all races play and exercise together, a freakish sight after years of being programmed the other way. Graffiti is nowhere to be found, replaced instead by colorful, creative murals and other works of art.

Since I've been here, racial riots, rapes, work stoppages, and the wide range of other wickedness are all memories of the past. I believe this is the only facility in the states that can make such a positive claim.

The success of the Honor Program cannot be denied. According to a study conducted by prison staff, the Honor Program saved the CDC (and taxpayers) more than $200,000 in its first year alone. Meanwhile, weapons infractions decreased 88 percent, and violence and threatening behavior dropped 85 percent.

In a state that features one of the nation's highest recidivism rates " two-thirds of California's offenders return to prison within three years " such tangible evidence of behavioral correction is welcome indeed.
 
2PacksAday
 
  1  
Reply Tue 11 Nov, 2008 08:13 pm
@Robert Gentel,
Very interesting.
Merry Andrew
 
  1  
Reply Tue 11 Nov, 2008 09:50 pm
@2PacksAday,
Quote:
Very interesting.


Yes, very. Say, you don't suppose that a sincere attempt at rehabilitation can actually...rehabilitate? I wonder if there're any stats on the recidivism rate at this facility compared to other prisons in Cal.
cyphercat
 
  2  
Reply Tue 11 Nov, 2008 10:34 pm
@Robert Gentel,
Wow, that sounds amazing. I have a cousin who is in prison here in California, and it does sound like an incredibly broken, hellish system. He's not at all a hard case, just a very depressed, troubled person, and all that prison is doing to him is screwing him up more than he was... I sure wish the Honor Program model would be adopted more widely. Too bad they make too much money of off the prison system as it is now to want to fix it.
0 Replies
 
RexRed
 
  -3  
Reply Tue 11 Nov, 2008 10:37 pm
Question; can a liberal "rehabilitate" another liberal? Smile
0 Replies
 
2PacksAday
 
  4  
Reply Wed 12 Nov, 2008 12:17 am
@Merry Andrew,
Merry Andrew wrote:

Quote:
Very interesting.


Yes, very. Say, you don't suppose that a sincere attempt at rehabilitation can actually...rehabilitate? I wonder if there're any stats on the recidivism rate at this facility compared to other prisons in Cal.


From my own personal experience, I would say that this type of rehab attempt would be highly sucessful...no one "cure" will ever unbend, or open every criminal mind...but yeah, I would embrace this whole heartedly.

I have grown up in a fairly poor area, and I've seen a large percent of my age group...my peers...waste their lives away, on the various vices that tend to be associated with poor folk....meth has been the real killer of late. Most of them have served some jail time, spent time in drug rehab clinics, and seem to be perpetually on "paper"...that is their term for being on probation...I hate the phrase with a passion...it's so nonchalant, and I hear it at least once a week.

I won't try to play it off that I'm some sort of perfect citizen, but with little to no effort, I've easily been able to avoid any and all of that bs. This fact comes up from time to time, usually when one of my peers returns from one of the various forms of incarceration...when asked...."How did you avoid all this?"...I generally give them the Nancy Reagan answer...I just didn't/don't do it, it's that simple. It truly is that simple, if you don't smoke crack, you can't get addicted to it....but...for some folks it's not that easy, which has always been difficult for me to understand...but I don't have to understand it to know that it is true.

My more "real" response to that question....is that as a child, I was always surrounded with creative outlets...paint, puzzles, all types of music, and most importantly...to me anyway...books, I never "wanted" for information, if I did...it wasn't for long. Knowledge is power, with power comes responsibility...that's a slight play on two phrases...but it rings true, and fits me nicely. My fulfilled self, gives me the power to stave off the nonsense that ruins so many of the people's lives around me....I am simply much to responsible for that...I know better.

There are two words that I often use to poke fun at...well, liberals....intellectual, and enlightened, but it is more toward the attitude that certain individuals possess, more so that their educational background, or their open mindedness....there is nothing more important to me than my children learning to learn....that and an ability to pay their rent. The best way to dig yourself out of a hole is to learn your way out....right brain...logic...left brain...creativity, combine the two...solve the problem....but you have to want to. These guys in the Honor Program, they want it, they have gone so far as to established societal rules amongst themselves to insure that goal...a tough hard line not to screw up..."You will learn"...for some folks that what it takes.
dlowan
 
  1  
Reply Wed 12 Nov, 2008 06:36 am
@Robert Gentel,
Been looking for info:



http://www.prisonhonorprogram.org/#What is the Honor Program


Hard times:

http://articles.latimes.com/2004/apr/27/local/me-honor27

But continuing?

http://www.cdcr.ca.gov/News/2007_Press_Releases/Press20070323.html


http://www.prisonhonorprogram.org/SenatePublicSafetyHearing.htm



Can't find any hard data....

Though this claim is made in one of the articles I referenced:

"A study released by Lancaster prison officials in 2003 compared illegal activity in the yard before and after the honors program was established. It showed that weapons infractions decreased 88%, violence and threatening behavior dropped 85% and drug-related offenses and trafficking were down 43%."



But, in my view, any decency and opportunity for development experienced by inmates is a good thing.

Sure beats endless prison muscle building.

Some general prison program stuff, including the Honour Program:

http://listverse.com/crime/top-10-modern-prison-programs/


0 Replies
 
Merry Andrew
 
  1  
Reply Wed 12 Nov, 2008 07:02 am
@2PacksAday,
Great post, 2packs. I was a teacher at juvenile detention facilities for a dozen years. I also come from a background similar to that of many of the youths I taught so there was no problem with our relating to each other. Any teachers that came from upper middle class homes in the suburbs, these guys would've ground up for breakfast. And did. Many of these kids -- and we had people accused of rape, armed robbery, assault, even murder in a couple of instances -- were remarkeably creative and bright, given enough chance to express themselves.
You wrote:
Quote:
The best way to dig yourself out of a hole is to learn your way out....right brain...logic...left brain...creativity, combine the two...solve the problem....but you have to want to.


The last phrase is the key. Without motivation, no system is going to work. There are always those who are proud to be known as 'gangstas', who have unswerving loyalty to their drug-dealing clique, and who value the 'hood above all. They're doomed. It's the ones who're interested in leaving the 'hood behind, in achieving something better who can be helped by such a program. It's like rehab. Twelve-step porgrams for alcoholics and drug abusers work only if the person is genuinely interested in getting help, in bettering their lives.
aidan
 
  4  
Reply Wed 12 Nov, 2008 09:40 am
@Merry Andrew,
I was talking to someone about the psychology of criminal tendencies. Because I taught in a prison and worked among adult males who had committed all sorts of crimes from forging passports to attempted murder and rape, I'd had the opportunity to talk to and learn from people who were in the very situation the author of the opening post described.

At the beginning, I was convinced, after hearing the majority of their stories, that there was a situational component (something 2 pack alluded to) in their upbringing - maybe a lack of educational or creative opportunities- as well as an innate tendency to suffer from impulsivity which often resulted in rash and reckless behavior- almost as if the concept of actions leading to consequences had not been learned- or maybe could simply not be adhered to.

And during the time I taught at the prison, I was impressed by the array of opportunities available to these men in terms of educational, creative and physical activities. There was a prison choir, a prison band, art and pottery classes where really amazing talent was on display...cooking classes, etc., etc.
And most of the guys participated. There were six units- each offering or enforcing varying degrees of security. Only one was set aside for those who were still known drug users - although I did learn as I taught there that drug use was still pretty rampant throughout the prison.

What I viewed and what I hadn't thought of before was that often - no matter how intent the person was on staying clean, or refusing to engage again in the behavior that had landed him in prison- there almost inevitably arose an instance in which the person reoffended (even in such a censuring and/or supportive (however you choose to label it) environment).

And so, I began to wonder if the tendency to offend criminally might be a sort of compulsion- like washing your hands too often. I thought of this because once I was talking to one of the men and he asked me not to leave my bag in the room with him. I never had my wallet in it - we locked any of our valuable or identifying material in our cars - we were cautioned not even to bring them into the prison - but apparently he didn't know this. And he told me, 'Don't leave your bag in the room with me - I don't want to steal from you.'

It was then that I realized that some of these behaviors might be as addicting and engaged in as compulsively but also reluctantly as drug abuse or drinking or any other compulsion.

But the question that most interested me was this: Do most of the people who engage in these activities feel bad about engaging in them and truly wish to stop? I'd like to believe this is the case - that the guy who wrote about his opportunities at this prison to change his life- is in the majority.

Unfortunately, I think there are some who view their ability to get over on the system or other individuals as thrilling and it is this thrill, as much as constantly reliving the experience of the actual illegal activity they engage in, that they're compelled to constantly chase.

What was most interesting to me was the fact that these men all recognized each other and were constantly warning me each about the other. They were more judgmental of their fellow prisoners than any other the teachers I worked with were. And I worked with some pretty middle class teachers - all of whom had one thing in common- an open mind. We hadn't been immersed in what seemed to be pretty common environmental pathologies as they had. I really had no opinion about any of it before I worked there - because I didn't know it - but they all knew each other's stories intimately...they'd lived it. So they knew what each other were capable of.

No one even tried to chew me up and spit me out though - if anything they were protective and it was the most orderly and polite teaching environment I'd ever taught in. I'd take it before public school in a second.
ossobuco
 
  1  
Reply Wed 12 Nov, 2008 10:36 am
@aidan,
A girlfriend of a close friend taught literature and creative writing at the same prison as the article - or I think it was the same one - back in the eighties. I barely met her much less talked with her about it. Anyway, Aidan, I found your comments interesting/useful.

So, these are probably complex matters of behavior and psychology and at least somewhat of background opportunity. Still, I'm, from here, a fan of that "model" system.
aidan
 
  1  
Reply Wed 12 Nov, 2008 10:41 am
@ossobuco,
thank you Osso
0 Replies
 
boomerang
 
  1  
Reply Wed 12 Nov, 2008 11:15 am
At the risk of exposing my cynicism I have to say that it is just too bad this guy couldn't figure out how to live within the "honor system" before he killed someone and I have to wonder if he would have taken advantage of self-help and creative outlets if he hadn't been bored out of his mind in prison.

With that said I'll add that it makes me absolutely furious every time I read about cuts to Head Start and other proven programs for early intervention while the next page of the paper details the plans for a new prison.

It makes me crazy that the same people who are always sobbing about welfare/social programs/hand outs/boot straps/my money/ whatever are the same ones who insist everyone get locked up with the keys thrown away.

As a taxpayer I would much rather foot the bill for educational opportunities to people who haven't been sent to prison already.
0 Replies
 
Robert Gentel
 
  1  
Reply Sat 15 Nov, 2008 01:02 am
What are prisons in Norway really like?
Erwin James visits Skien high security prison in southern Norway, and finds that behind the forbidding walls rehabilitation and education are key


Quote:
"The prisoners are all locked in their cells," explains Leif, "but they will be going out on the exercise yard soon, perhaps you would like to join them?"

It is an interesting suggestion, one I'm not too sure about at first. I remember my own time in prison and the discomfort that I and others felt when people from the outside came to "have a look around". It was fine if they engaged and interacted with us, recognising that we too were people. But when that didn't happen there was a real sense of intrusion, of being gaped at, as if we were animals in a zoo.

Meanwhile Leif takes me to the staff canteen. Prison guards are having a break, and a senior officer joins us, a broad-shouldered, tough looking man, with close-cropped hair and a clipped moustache. Leif explains that the man is the officers' union rep. He appears a little suspicious of me at first, but soon relaxes and we chat amiably. I tell him that in Britain we have a view that Scandinavian prisons are among the most progressive in Europe, "but what I've seen so far reminds me very much of the high security prisons that I have experienced at home". He smiles. "It's a prison," he says. "You would know it if you were in here."

Leif beckons me to follow him. "Come, I show you where I work," he says. I follow and soon we are in what I recognise as the education department. It is very clean. He shows me a classroom. There are rows of wooden desks and chairs, like any classroom, except each desk has a computer on it. "Every prisoner here has a computer in the classroom," he says, "and a computer in their cell."

The last bit especially surprises me. In the UK prisoner access to computers is strictly limited. Most education departments have a computer room " but only a dozen or so prisoners will ever be able to use them at any one time, bearing in mind that only 10-30% of any UK prisoner population has regular access to the prison education department. Leif tells me that there are 80 prisoners in Skien. In the whole of Norway there are just over 3,000 prisoners, out of the country's population of around 4m. "I don't suppose the prisoners have access to the internet," I say. Leif looks at me. "But of course," he says. And in their cells? "Yes."

Leif explains that firewalls have been set up to ensure security is maintained. "But they must be able to access the internet," he says, "to help in their education and also so that they know they are still connected to the world." It seems a noble and generous attitude compared to that in the UK. Few governors are prepared to allow prisoners have computers in their cells " and none allow Internet access for prisoners.

Merry Andrew
 
  1  
Reply Sat 15 Nov, 2008 06:37 pm
@Robert Gentel,
Some of those Norse convicts probably post on A2K, unbeknownst. Very Happy
dlowan
 
  1  
Reply Sat 15 Nov, 2008 07:25 pm
@Merry Andrew,
Damn fine thing if so.
Merry Andrew
 
  1  
Reply Sat 15 Nov, 2008 09:28 pm
@dlowan,
Oh, absolutely. Certainly raises the general tone of many an otherwise lackluster thread.
0 Replies
 
RexRed
 
  -1  
Reply Sat 15 Nov, 2008 09:32 pm
Red, with my underpants down.
0 Replies
 
 

Related Topics

Prop 8? - Discussion by majikal
California and its greentard/water problems - Discussion by gungasnake
Kiddie ROTH IRA for Foster Children? - Question by FosterMom626
CA Rape Laws need reform (of course...) - Discussion by tsarstepan
The Basic Non-Existence of California - Discussion by gungasnake
when to contact cps - Question by anon1234
Socialism and California - Discussion by gungasnake
Snapchat and me - Discussion by ossobucotemp
 
  1. Forums
  2. » My Shawshank Redemption
Copyright © 2019 MadLab, LLC :: Terms of Service :: Privacy Policy :: Page generated in 0.03 seconds on 10/23/2019 at 04:12:35