Letters From Prison: I Feel Human Again

Letters From Prison: I Feel Human Again

“I is adopted!!!”

Not proper grammar, to be sure, but this was the response I sent Melissa when I got the news. The feeling I had was one of pure elation. It was as close to having a religious experience as I have had in a decade – so much so, that my total outlook since that day has only been positive. I have learned to feel joy again, to embrace hope.

In this current climate, it seems that good news, real good news, just doesn’t happen that often. I asked myself why, pondered the possible answers, and then asked myself why not? When I was a free man the only person who was truly responsible for my happiness was me. Oh sure other people could influence me and my moods but in the end it was my choice to be happy or not happy.

In prison I am told what to eat, when to eat, when to work, when to sleep and even when to use the restroom. Yes, even when to urinate. Every aspect of my life is controlled. Many of those over me feel they are not doing their job if they ever see me or another inmate smile. Yet I smile.

Do you wish to create some good news in the world? I know I do. Here is how you, just one person, can change the world. Adopt an inmate. It’s simple, pain-free and a great way to prove that one person can change the world.

What adoption means is simply making a pledge, a commitment, to correspond with an inmate by snail mail or e-mail. You can give hope to someone who has lost faith in human compassion — to somebody who most likely has lost everyone they ever loved or cared about.

Everything about prison slowly strips your humanity away. Everything about prison teaches you not to trust anyone. It is a vicious cycle that turns men who made a mistake into career criminals and some men into worse. The average inmates I know developed an inferiority complex and began to resent society as a whole. We miss the real world so much that it turns into frustration and helplessness. All it takes to stop the trend is an angel with a few minutes to spare each month.

For many of us, it is as if time has stopped and we are trapped in a bubble. For me every day was February 12, 2012. I was broken until Mrs. C adopted me.

On April 7th, 2018, I received a polite, well-written e-mail from a complete stranger. It was short and to the point, but for me, a total stranger was treating me with respect. What? I had forgotten what it felt like to be treated like this. Mrs. C ended the e-mail with “All my best.” I was in shock. Later that day I received a second e-mail, and again Mrs. C was polite. She wrote me as if I were a long-lost friend who had merely lost contact with her, or so it felt. After I finally came out of shock, I was sure it was a mistake.

The following day I received an e-mail from Melissa from Adopt an Inmate, telling me I had been adopted by Mrs. C. It was after I reread that email for the fourth or fifth time that I realized the too-good-to-be-true woman who was treating me like a real person was true. GASP. It was not a mistake. I cried over the good news, then my clock started back up, it was no longer February 12, 2012.

I will forever be grateful to Mrs. C and dedicate this article to her. We e-mail back and forth a few times a week and I feel human again.

You want to change the world for someone? It can be done. It takes only a little effort. Mrs. C agreed to contact me once a month, but has gone beyond this. Thank you Mrs. C., for being a light in my darkness.

What adopting an inmate is not. It is not a dating service. It is not putting money on phone or commissary account or paying for a food box. You are not being asked to do anything more than treat a human humanely. You really can change the world by corresponding with one person.

You can talk about the weather, what famous movies were filmed near you, books, or trends. I suggest that politics and religion be avoided at all cost.

Inmates who get adopted should show respect for those who adopt them. Mrs. C is somebody I find witty and funny. I care not that she lives on the other side of the planet and I will never meet her.

A stranger has done for me what my family and friends would not.

I have once again realized that even in here, I am ultimately responsible for my own happiness. This is something my counselors have been saying for years. It took Mrs. C, her compassion, and her kindness for me to come to this conclusion on my own.

Thank you, Mrs. C., thank you, Melissa and everyone at Adopt an Inmate.

*Note: Boundless is correct, we ask for nothing beyond regular correspondence. We do have adopters who also choose to call and/or visit, put money on an inmate’s commissary account, send books or an occasional package. I have some adopters who send Christmas gifts to their adoptee’s children for Christmas or birthdays. All of these acts of kindness are appreciated, but not required.

We have a backlog right now, but with help from some dedicated volunteers we are working through the list, and continue to welcome all requests. If you’re one of the waiting adopters – expect to hear from us soon! Feel free to email us to see where you are on the list.

It’s A Violation

It’s A Violation

Human beings are sexual creatures by nature. It’s literally written into our DNA. Sexual expression is a remarkably healthy activity, both physically and psychologically, as long as it is not forced, exploitative, or directed toward children. Forced, exploitative, or pedophilic sexual expression is, without question, unhealthy, perverse, dangerous to all involved, and destructive to our communities, but consensual forms of adult human sexuality are entirely wholesome aspects of general humanness. However, sexual expression is against the rules in prison.

Obviously the first thing that comes to mind when discussing sexual expression in the context of prison is homosexual rape or coercion. While all homosexual activity is understandably prohibited in correctional facilities, given the legitimate potential for sexual exploitation, homosexuality is not necessarily an unhealthy manifestation of human sexuality. As with any acceptable form of sexual expression, it is left to the individual to determine the pleasurability and morality of homosexual activity. But homosexual activity is not the only form of sexual expression that is against the rules.

All incoming mail that includes any sexual content is routinely rejected. Girlfriends, wives, boyfriends, and husbands send their incarcerated significant others a little “dirty talk” from time to time. Yet these harmless words are rejected and sent back. Although kept alive only through pen and paper, sexual connections between free and incarcerated loved ones is rehabilitative. Books are routinely rejected as well. Something as innocuous as 50 Shades of Gray was recently denied entry through the mail because of sexual content. Pictures and magazines that fail to meet entirely subjective standards are summarily rejected en masse. The justification for these policies is that sexually explicit material is a threat to the safety, security, and orderly operation of the facility and an impediment to inmate rehabilitation, although the perceptible distinction between implicit and explicit is consistently ignored, often willfully. I could understand limiting the consumption of sexual material for those inmates who are incarcerated for sexually related offenses, but blanket policies are overly restrictive. And it gets even worse.

An incarcerated person can actually receive a disciplinary report for masturbation, complete with ensuing sanctions such as loss of privileges, segregation, loss of housing or job, and even loss of earned-time reductions. Yep! You read that correctly folks: Masturbation, the most harmless and natural form of sexual expression is against the rules. It is not only for the more creepy and inappropriate acts like an inmate touching himself in ways that a female staff member is forced to see (which is a freak show, no doubt). An average inmate, alone in his cell, relieving a little tension can receive disciplinary action if caught.

I’m not convinced these draconian policies are as arbitrary as they seem. Even movies with nudity are censored, but excessive violence in movies, music, books, and letters remains uncensored. Given the fact that sexuality is an irreducible facet of the human personality, rules against any and all forms of healthy sexual expression during incarceration is a not so subtle attempt to dehumanize the inmate, while allowing limitless amounts of violence to permeate all forms of approved media ensures inmates remain socialized to aggression. Consequently, being forced to endure such excessive — even ridiculous — restrictions upon one’s humanity, for years at a time, can have a damaging effect on healthy identity development and potentially interfere with rehabilitation in negative ways by crippling key aspects of psycho-social stability.

I’m certainly not advocating sexual licentiousness for the incarcerated. I’m simply saying that 95% of inmates eventually release back into the community, and sexually healthy and mature men are more valuable to the community, primarily because they are more well-adjusted. It makes sense, as long as the goal is, indeed, rehabilitation. I’m not totally convinced it is.