An End To “Us Against Them”

Written by Jacob Schmitt

I had fallen so far from what I wanted in life that I was prepared to do anything to gain acceptance and approval. What I ended up with was 30 years in prison — having never shed a drop of blood in my life. For many, that is where the story would end, but for me — that’s where it began. I can be a good person whether I am in prison or not. The truly beautiful thing about this realization is that its true for all of us. Every man and woman incarcerated has the ability to be in prison without allowing prison to be in us. Granted, it takes courage and commitment to stand in the face of an environment as inherently negative as prison and say: I will be more than this. But we can do it.

April 3, 2018

Convicts against the guards. When I first began my life within the prison industrial complex over 28 years ago, this maxim was a hard and fast reality. Since then, I have witnessed it fade into an often intangible concept – and I am grateful to see its decline.

The root of this antagonism is easy to identify. Prisoners feel anger towards a system gone awry, and resentment for their captors grow, as guards attempt to rule by force rather than be reason, imagining that having the ability to do something gives them the authority to do it.

The passion of resistance burns fiercely within me, and I can feel the heartbeat of this problem. But there comes a time when we have to put our resentments aside if we are to ever have any real hope of peace and happiness. My hope is that by sharing one simple concept I can broaden the perspective of those that still subscribe to the “us against them” philosophy.

We all want to go home on time. Prisoners and guards alike.

Prisoners all want to be released at the earliest date, and in turn, prison staff all wish to go home at the end of their shift. Fortunately, the modern prison experience provides many opportunities for staff and prisoners to have positive interaction, which allows us to see the humanity in ach other.

Going home on time is an ideal that we can extend far beyond the walls of prison. This common goal is present in every class of our society, and through its acknowledgement, we can develop an often missing sense of connection between both sides of this paradigm.

I know all too well that prison is an inherently negative environment, and as such, this message will fall on many deaf ears – for prisoners and guards alike. But for most of us, this concept will resonate, and I hope grow.

It is no longer us against them. Today, it is us and them – together. Striving for stronger and healthier communities. Through embracing this common goal, we can all move beyond the anger and pain, and find a place where we can heal.

I want to thank the staff and supporters of Adopt an Inmate for taking the time to care. I want all of you to know that the kindness and consideration that you offer is deeply appreciated.

In Boldness,

Jacob Ivan Schmitt

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