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Letters & Stories from Inmates & X-Cons Post all letters, stories and information from inmates and ex-convicts here. Share their perspective with the rest of us who have not been on the inside.

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  #1  
Old 11-04-2003, 02:14 PM
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Default Prison Mentality ‘or’ Institutionalized?

For those persons that are not in or have been in prison, this subject might be hard to get across. How ever, in the interest of enlightening others, I shall attempt to do just that.

When a person is incarcerated, a manifestation occurs. It is not necessarily a bad one, perhaps just one of survival. Because this manifestation does occur, it causes an incarcerated person to be, if he/she so happens to manifest, labeled as having a ‘prison mentality’ or to be ‘institutionalized’.

In order to explain why this is not a bad thing, I believe it is necessary to give comparisons of the situation, so I hope this helps.

First, the prison environment. Convicted persons, inmates, convicts, prisoners, jailbirds, ect ect. No matter what the public chooses to call ‘us’ we are still PERSONS! So, to get my point across, please keep that thought in mind.

Now, a person had many different characteristics that come natural, one such characteristic is for survival. Ok, you might be thinking, hey, isn’t survival an instinct? Well, yes, to a point. If one does not feel the need to survive, than that ‘instinct’ may never engage. On the other hand, if survival is adopted by a person on a daily basis, then it becomes a characteristic, would you agree? For the sake of the article, I hope so!

So, back to the characteristics of survival. When a prisoner is placed in prison he has to ‘adjust’ to the climate. This ‘adjustment’ is part of that manifestation I spoke of. For example, I might not have been use to loud noise on a constant and continual basis, such as if I lived out in a rural area and my employment did not involve me to be in contact with persons/public on a daily basis, I would most likely consider a dog barking as a loud noise. Well, let me tell you. That is nothing compared to what one hears in prison. How about loud music, not just one type, two or three stations playing at the same volume at the same time. Add to that, twenty people holding five different conversations about ‘nothing’ at the top of their lungs, all trying to out yell the other and trying to yell over those radio stations I spoke of earlier. Don’t forget the four tables of spades, dominos, and oh, the ever popular combat chess and full contact checkers. Now, that would be loud noise. So, if I were the one that was not use to that I would have to ‘adjust’ or manifest into a product of prison. Such ‘adjustment’ might include, but not be limited to; staying in my cell with ear plugs in, staying in the library reading or studying, isolation myself from others, except when necessary, such as meal times or lock down, or the opposite. I could choose to join the majority and become part of the loud noise. No matter the decision, I would be ‘adjusting’ to my living conditions. So, for my first example, is that a bad thing? I would say no.

Now let me give a ‘free world’ example.

I am from the city, a modest sized city, and I move to a rural area. I am use to cable TV, pizza delivery and 24-hour convenience stores. But, the first weekend I am living there I find myself hungry. I call the local pizza joint only to find they have closed at 11:30 p.m. on Friday. So, I get into my car and travel down the dirt road, which has turned to mud after the rain, and I find myself stuck in a ditch on the side of the road. So, I get out to walk to the nearest pay phone because I am out of range for my cellular to work. The nearest pay- phone turns out to be 5 miles down this muddy road. Once this situation ends, happily I might add, I ‘adjust’ to my new living conditions. I.e.; I get pizza earlier, I trade my car for truck, and I stock up on supplies so when it does rain I do not have to go out. Now, would you call this ‘adjustment’ a bad one or just one of survival? I’d say you would call it survival. So, why is it that when we, as prisoners, ‘adjust’ to our living conditions we are labeled as having a ‘prison mentality’ or being ‘institutionalized’? To honestly answer that question, perhaps I must go further into this discussion. So, here goes.

As I mentioned above, survival seems to be the key common denominator. But a personal ‘want’ can be added to that necessity, and when that happens it causes the ‘ need’ of one to be viewed as’greed’ by others. As an example; I am use to having what I want when I want it. If I were hungry, I’d order pizza. Prepare something from the kitchen or go out to eat at any number of restaurants in my area. But in prison, we are limited to the quantity, quality and type of food that is available. I use this word loosely, ‘available’. This means through the normal channels such as commissary sales, or offered to inmates at meal times. This brings me to the greed issue. A lot of inmates choose to obtain items from the food service department that is not normally ‘ available’. So if I were to obtain cheese from an inmate that works in food service so that I may be able to prepare a homemade pizza on weekends, I might be viewed as being greedy by others. And if I am caught with this cheese I would more than likely be given an Incident Report, and then I’d go to the hole and loose good time and not be able to talk to my family and then my family would say that I am ‘ Institutionalized’ because of what I did. But didn’t we just mention that ‘survival’ characteristic is learned that when I choose to survive in my current living conditional I am doing nothing more than ‘ adjusting’? Well, there you go. Just a few examples of how we, prisoners, can be labeled with having a ‘Prison Mentality’ or being ‘ Institutionalized’. Naturally, for the sake of readers I have not written about more severe acts of survival that is carried out on a daily basis behind these walls and barbed wire fences. But I do not think I could have gotten my point across had I use them. All I say is, this is survival. And after all of that, I could have very easily summed this topic up in one sentence, “ When in Rome, do as Romans.”

Darren Thompson





i was not sure where to place this.
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  #2  
Old 11-04-2003, 02:35 PM
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Thanks for sharing this story lulu
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Old 11-04-2003, 02:36 PM
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great article lulu....thanks for sharing. It's amazing the effects the prisons have on our loved ones. I'm seeing some of this now.....

thanks for sharing,
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Old 11-04-2003, 02:41 PM
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Your more then welcome. He and I have another, that write articles for me. I ask Fedx first to make sure it was still ok to place them here.
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Old 11-04-2003, 06:26 PM
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Thanks for sharing Lulu... I happen to agree with him... We'd all do what we have to do to survive....

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Old 11-05-2003, 07:01 AM
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Thanks Deb,
I was not sure at one time if i was going to restart the article thing, but i think it is important that we veiw the inside throuhh their eyes
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Old 11-05-2003, 07:33 AM
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this all makes sense...and i am going to send a copy of this to my son...he was told he was institutionalized..and i agreed...but after reading this...hummm....he's a good survivalist....
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Old 11-05-2003, 07:34 AM
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Please let us know what he says
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Old 11-05-2003, 07:46 AM
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You know, I don’t think any one really realizes the effect that prison has on a prisoner. Especially when they get out. I at times believe that is where unconditional loves into play.
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Old 11-06-2003, 05:39 AM
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lulu

I agree with you. Since my best friend was sent to Garza West all I do is spend my time thinking about how he must be feeling and I am grateful now for all the little things I have taken for granted all my life. I have to admit that before Jerry was incarcerated I never once thought about or cared about how people where feeling or being treated while in prison. I guess I never wanted to except that innocent people where sent to prison as well as really horrible people. Jerry was sentenced to 3 years for DWI and I know he won't serve the whole 3 years but still I don't feel he deserves to be in there. I am worried of how he will be when he is released. Will he be the loving and kind man he was before or will he be a hard core person who doesn't give a damn for anything or anyone? Does anyone have any answers?
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Old 11-06-2003, 06:51 AM
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Default tejada4ever

I am not sure we all have the answers. I do know that you have to realise the prison mentailtiy that one develops while being lock up. This does not mean that one comes out mean, or hatful, it just means that they have a hard time adpating. I hope this helps.
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Old 11-06-2003, 07:26 AM
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lulu

Thanks for your response it helps a little.
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Old 11-06-2003, 07:33 AM
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You are more then welcome. I can sense that your going through a hard time. Please know that if you ever want to talk, we are here to hear you ok?
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Old 11-06-2003, 10:55 AM
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lul

Thanks. Sometimes I just real guilty for being happy when I know that Jerry is so misserable. I worry about what he has to go through on a daily basis just to survive. I guess not knowing is better then knowing.....
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Old 11-06-2003, 11:49 AM
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Hun, there is nothing for you to feel guilty about. WE have to live out here and survive our self while they are lock up. The dont tend to take that away from us. They usually only ask that we share our happiness with them.
You are a caring person, and i can see that you feel his pain. Dont be ashamed of that, ok?
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Old 11-07-2003, 03:18 AM
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I AM A MOTHER OF A SON THAT IS INCARERATED FOR A LONG TME 46 years!!!!!!!!!! He has not even served a year yet, only 10 months. Those ten months have been the most horrible tme of my life. I am seeing a pycholoist who has experience in his area which is most helpful. Tallking to family does not cut it they have their own hang-ups. I feel deeply for all of you on this prison talk line and can relate. I told my son not to ever change in prison to continue to be himself but now I realize he has to have the prison mentally to sursive. I and my daughter (second mother) continue to send him things to keep his mind busy. Crossword puzzles, news articles, postcards, baseball, basketball, football updates. We also have subuscribed to magazines for him. I feel an idle mind is dangerous. We also send him books. It is so hard to know that things will never be normal!!! and with the holidays coming up i KNOW WE WILL ALLL FEEL LONELY WITH OUR LOVE ONES!!!!!!!!!!!! I do believe in GOD and know he is definetelly guiding me and my daughter through this dark period. I was as someone stated not concerned with prisoners earlier, this experience with my son has opened my eyes and my heart. I truly feel for all!!!!!!!!!! I feel that the general public doesn't understand our situation as well as I didn't till this hit home. Is it no enought that they have total lack of freedom (no choice of food, limited communication, lack of visual stimulation, punishments for minor things) and not to mention the degration from other cellies, guards, etc. THEY ARE ALL HUMAN BEINGS DESERVING OF THE BASIC RIGHTS. I PRAY FOR ALL AND FEEL FOR YOU!!!!!!!!!!!!!! CHIARZ
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Old 11-08-2003, 09:07 PM
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Well written, one must adapt to their present conditions. Prison plays a lot of head games with a person. I remember getting out and standing in front of doors in stores waiting for the guard to open them. And when someone in a store walks to close to a fresh release its easy to tense up. I remember being in line at a concert and a guy jumped in line in front of me, I slammed him so fast it scared me needless to say what he thought. Its been said once you learn to live in prison its hard to live outside.
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Old 11-09-2003, 07:08 AM
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ChiArz
welcome to pto. I am so sorry to hear your son has so much time. God bless you both
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Old 11-09-2003, 03:36 PM
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Thank you for your replies. Many all of you have a wonderful Thanksgiving.
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Old 11-09-2003, 05:14 PM
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When Drew was first going into prison on his first VOP, and we pretty much knew what the outcome was going to be, he and I sat down and talked about it some and I feared so much he'd become "hardened" like mean and loose his personality. Well, the opposite happened with him; he learned to love and appreciate his family, and his few friends that were there for him and wrote and took his occasional call. This time, it's weird coz I think when we first got the 12 year sentence I really though immediately he'd really change back to what he was when he was going thru some hard stuff before sentenced originally. But then now, a week later, I don't fear for it so much and that's because he's ending up serving around two years. I think he'd be able to handle it somehow anyhow. He's just that type of person. He has a strong sense of inner self.

I had used the word "institutionalized" in a whole different light than what I just read here, whenever I'd use it. So you all have really educated me. But he told me a few weeks ago; you walk the walk and talk the talk to survive. But I really think the more we can give them to show we are here pulling for them, the more they are able to keep from becoming hardened and rough people.

This has opened my eyes a lot and I loved the letter. Thanks whoever put it here. I don't think any of us can ever learn enough about what it's like in there. And I feel like we sorta in a certain sense, need to absorb it as much as we can to be there to support them.

Just my two cents. If it's too much, let me know and I'll remove it. I mean it all in a positive light though.
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Old 11-09-2003, 05:24 PM
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ChiArz:

I am so thinking about you. I can't imagine 46 years. I sent Drew all the magazines and books and stuff before when he was in too, and I will again this time. It did help. It was only two years before but it honestly was hard for him when he came out, too. I think it's good you're sending all that stuff. It will help keep him associated with the outside world.

If you ever want to talk or feel you need to, please feel free to PM me. I have a therapist too. The best. I love her dearly and she's had exp. in this field too. It's good you have someone.

Cindi
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Old 11-12-2003, 10:03 AM
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well, i have brought this to billy's attention. my problem..(one of many lol), i did not know him prior to incarceration...if i did then i would know how he was prior to incarceration..

although, i copied him a teenie weenie bit of the same type of thing that you posted lulu..well, i think it was. anyways, it was on SAS (surviving the system)...and, it was just talking about how..like when one is incarcerated, they might act different IN THERE then they would on the outside...(which is where my problem w/not knowing him prior to incarceration comes in).

i had read somewhere on here, that..one becomes institutionalized at around 18 months after being IN. which, is a relatively short amout of time. 1 year & 6 months..

here we go. i remember in the last letter i sent him, i had mentioned something along the lines of "i understand youve been in almost 11 years, you have had to do what you have had to do to survive in there...even if it means, lying, cheating & stealing..."

well, the last letter i got from him (last week...) this is what he mentioned

i have not gotten use to stealing, cheating & lying, and so on..i use whats called "KARMA"..."what comes around, goes around." you cant avoid that---nobody can. if i do wrong, it will come back to me, a loved one, who knows how--but it will come back."

hey, at least w/him being in almost 11 years, he is able to see that, i think its pretty damn good...although, i dont know if more are able to see things this way..but, i dont know, guess you would just have to know him.

i know that when i think of "institutionalized"..it makes me think of some 3rd world country's mental hospital..like the one in '12 monkey's'. all nasty, w/people in some weird vegi. state.

although, he does tell me about how there are others there that do lie, cheat & steal. & i guess if they figure thats the only way they will 'survive' then so be it.

i too agree that most of the general public do not know much if anything about what goes on in prisons & w/our inmates. and its quite sad actually. ya know, hear what they read & see on the news. if they only knew...

anyways, blah blah blah...
thanks for posting this lulu who wrote it btw??
melissa
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  #23  
Old 11-12-2003, 10:20 AM
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he admitts to his wrong doing, and being honest with himself. that is alwsy a good thing
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Old 11-12-2003, 11:58 AM
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My boyfriend (my heart) is in Florence SMU# 2 which is lock down.He has been in there for almost 3 years and has to do the rest of his time in there, He has no contact with any one and I have to visit him behind a glass wall which lasts for only 2 hours. He is doing so well under the situation,he is so stronge and has not broke down at all.He is an awsome friend as well as a boyfriend. ok I am done bragging about my man. so hello everyone I am new to all this but very excited to be on here!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
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Old 11-13-2003, 06:39 AM
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I hate to hear how people are lock up 23/7.
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