While I was in camp, I learned that if you became a strong person because of being in prison camp, then you were already a strong person before you got to camp. Prison camp isn’t really about rehabilitation, it’s more about being restricted or like being in detention. When I did wrong at home, my parents would say, “You did something wrong, now go to your room.” While in there I would just sit down or lay in my bed. Instead of playing with my toys, I would read or write. Then I’d eat and If allowed, I’d go to the bathroom.
The difference between prison camp and my home restrictions is determined by the desired outcome. My parents tried to better me with the tool of restrictions. It proved that I could lose everything including my world and my family because of my actions. However, my parents taught me HOW to prevent that type of restriction from happening again. They taught me lessons about how to be a better man and to give people respect. Prison camp was more about someone locking you in a cage until the judge says the inmate can go free, at least that’s how I experienced it.
Yes, the camp counselors, administrators and correctional officers who are told to help an inmate as much as possible. However, I’ve seen too many times where inmates are told “suck it up” or “it’s not my problem” when they approach these individuals for help. Our response to that was to stay away from the ‘suits’ and CO’s until they called for you. Then when they called for you, do whatever it is that they’ve said to avoid a confrontation. It seems as though they had a list of things from their superiors that proved they were doing their job. Then of course, their superiors have to impress the politicians and the politician’s boss are technically the American people who wind up paying the bill.
Say for instance, an inmate wanted a Master’s degree, but his BOP (Bureau of Prison) record showed his Bachelor’s but not a high school degree. Technically, the administrator doesn’t have to help the inmate receive his Master’s degree, instead their job is to sign up the inmate for a GED. The administrators go by the BOP’s database only. Although the inmate has proof of his Bachelor’s degree, it is not sufficient or a suitable substitute for a GED. I can only theorize as to why that’s the case, but in order for the inmate to receive his Master’s degree, he’d have to get help from his family.
The prison camps responsibility is to give you the opportunity to gain a new skill or learn work-related habits. As long as there’s written evidence of this, which is in the inmate’s reports and in his progress reports, they are not responsible to help you with anything else. The administrators have demanding superiors and stressful, tattletale coworkers who make their lives worse if things aren’t done as they’ve asked. This can hurt the administrator’s future goals. The CO’s, administrators and other ‘suits’ are just following their career goals. In order to achieve their goals, they must please their superiors to get the necessary approvals and recommendations needed to move to the next level.
I say all this to say that if an inmate finds God, a career path, or does any self-improvement, it will largely be because of their strong will and desire. As for me, prison camp improved my writing career, but the spirit of a writer was in me the whole time. I made time to be a writer because I really wanted to be one. The administrators and CO’s only focused on making sure I had a GED and life skills needed to maintain a job and keep my apartment. That was their minimum requirement. In fact, the camp adviser told me writing was not a good choice for a career, even though she knew I had a degree in creative writing.
I’m sure there’s a conspiracy theory as to why the prison camp administrators only focus on doing the minimum as opposed to going above and beyond. Those theories are not the point of this post, so I’ll discuss that in future posts.
I believe the reason prison camp was a great experience for me is because I wanted it to be an amazing experience. I believe it made me better because I wanted prison camp to make me better. I believe that prison camp made me a better man because it was the one experience that made me see who I really was inside and it helped me become comfortable with that man.
Now, there was a CO that gave me some advice on these issues. However, it was through kind and friendly conversations, not a regulated program, and thus unofficial. Some people learned a little from the developmental classes offered, but then quickly forgot it. What they did seem to remember was the developmental concepts and ideas they researched and studied. That is how these inmates improved themselves, so I’ve been told.
Also, the inmates who had strong families to go home too grew as well. Knowing that I could quickly readjust with the help of my family was the most important thing to me in prison. In fact, knowing how much support I had from family gave me the extra motivation to keep developing myself because I knew it would all be worth it in the end.
Again, if anyone obtained anything from out of prison, at least based on my experience, I believe it was already within the person the entire time. If you’re a better man because of prison, the better man was already in you. It wasn’t because of the programs, the inmates or anything else. You somehow obtained the confidence in yourself and God to be that man.