My First Team Meeting–Federal Prison Camp Herlong Journal

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Prison is supposed to be a place of rehabilitation. If that’s the case, then it should be a place of empowerment. It should focus on helping inmates make plans, set achievable and realistic goals, and find a job after prison. However, my first meeting with the camp adviser didn’t do any of that. Like all other interactions with prison staff personnel, it was rushed. They also empowered themselves instead of uplifting me.

The camp adviser is the person who was supposed to help me develop a plan and create a goal for my post-prison life. She was also the one that decided my length of stay at the halfway house. Secretly I prayed to get to the halfway house three months after I got into prison. However, she told me I would be eligible for home confinement on June 15, 2012, which was about thirteen months after my prison arrival. She also wouldn’t mention the halfway house anymore until my next meeting which was in November.

As I mentioned before, the purpose of this meeting was to give me direction on what to do after prison. The adviser was supposed to provide me with tips to make sure I didn’t commit any crimes again and to make sure I would have a productive lifestyle, but it didn’t happen that way. Instead, she asked me questions about myself. It felt as if she was trying to prove she was better than me just because I was an inmate.

She asked me about my family background and how close I was to family members; I told her I was very close to them. When she asked about my educational success, I mentioned I had a Bachelor of Art in English. She asked about my employment status and wanted to know if I had a job waiting for me. I did have a job, and I also thought I had one waiting for me. Then she asked me some basic questions about life; did I know how to balance a checkbook, shop for groceries, find a job, and if I thought I was emotionally sane enough to handle prison. I answered “yes” to all of those questions and all of the other questions of the same sort.

She also asked me about my dreams and ambitions. When I told her I wanted to make a living off of writing, she discouraged me. She told me that planning to make a living from writing was a mistake and was not realistic. Also, she mentioned that I couldn’t be self-employed while at the halfway house. Later in the conversation, she said self-employment could be a hobby or a part-time job, but not a primary source of income. While in prison, she wanted me to find a job that would give me a trade. She suggested the Power House and I didn’t argue with her. When I told her I already applied and it looked as if I got the job, she was satisfied. It wasn’t going to be my permanent job, just a second job or a hobby. In the end, working a job at the halfway house worked out pretty damn nicely.  More on that later. I also chose not to argue with her on the point that I could be a successful writer. It wasn’t the time, and if I won, I wouldn’t gain anything. It was best to keep quiet about my ideas.

I nearly had to take GED classes because the Board of Prisons (BOP) had no proof of my high school diploma on their file system.  If I didn’t show evidence that I had a GED or high school diploma, I would have to take the class. Without the GED, I wouldn’t have been able to make more than $0.12 an hour (about $17 a month). I know I have a BA in English, but they didn’t care about that. In fact, I found out that my BA meant very little, if nothing at all in the BOP system. They only wanted me to find my transcripts from high school—official transcripts only. My mom had to do some legwork and get the transcripts sent to my camp adviser (More on that in another blog post).

Okay, let me bring it back to the team meeting. As I mentioned earlier, this first meeting wasn’t very uplifting at all. It was yet another meeting where a superior proved she was better than me, but I focused on not letting it get to me. I just told myself, these people have put me down because they need to have a sense of empowerment.