08 Aug 08

From Warrior (Letter 2)

Warrior - Serving fourteen years for kidnapping and aggravated assault. Half Hispanic and Scottish-Irish with family still in Mexico. Brought up by a family steeped in drug commerce.

7-24-08

Shaun,

Hello! How are you? I hope all is well and you’re keeping that positive mindset. It’s about being reflective, remembering where you’ve been, having confidence in where you’re going and savoring where you’re at. One can never savor prison though.

The rapist blog certainly received a lot of strong opinions. I was surprised. It’s cool to know that some people do listen and sympathize. I’m having to really think over what to write about. I can’t help but reflect on the thoughts of your readers. All the ones who felt I was in the wrong and/or was in the right. I admit I’ve done my share of wrongs to some in here. At times I administered prison justice. On other occasions, I intervened for some poor soul who didn’t know any better.

In response to the question you posed about what we did to the rapist, one of your readers stated something to the effect that “it’s a double-edged sword/loaded question.” So true. It’s prison politics at its most defined. All that I’ve experienced, seen, been accomplice to, and read, have afforded me this insight. I heard once that prison is called a concrete jungle because the law of the jungle applies. The strong prey on the weak. Eventually, you’re on one side of the line that divides the two. You’re either a predator or prey. No middle ground. Survival of the fittest much like social Darwinism.

Imagine that hateful bully from high school. Self-serving. Belligerent. Cruel. Now imagine being surrounded by hundreds of school bullies daily. Prison is full of them. They’re forced to deal with their own kind. Some get a good dose of reality and change. Others merely sharpen their skills and become more brutal. Prison is a society all of its own.

I read Ishmael by Daniel Quinn. Kind of a cheesy plot but the message stuck with me: we’re givers or takers in the world no matter where we are. If society were to collapse today because of some catastrophe, then the laws that govern prison would govern society.

We are all products of our environment to a certain degree. Sometimes, this is never clear in prison. Civility is nonexistent practically. It’s more a case of “When in Rome, do as the Romans do.”

An animalistic nature becomes the norm, and a once civilized man is likely to transform. You drift into another world, never realizing how far you’ve drifted until you spill your own blood or that of others. Instinct becomes the voice you listen to, not what’s right or wrong. Prison converts you to your most basic, most sadistic, most animalistic. Power is measured by brute force over intelligence. Impressions are based on what you see, respect then follows.
You see selectively, allowing things into view that affect you directly.
You always question, “Am I still human? Still civil? Can I function in society?”

It’s hard to ignore details that accompany certain crimes. Like how a child rapist only got five or seven years because the judge sympathized with what happens to sex offenders in prison, yet the five-year-old victim had to have reconstructive surgery on her vagina and is now on hormones for the rest of her life because she had to have her ovaries removed – the rape was that brutal.
It’s hard to ignore the crackhead thief who steals from his loved ones or an old lady coming out of a store because she was an easy target. His habit remains the same in prison. Chasing drugs, thieving and bullying.
It’s hard to ignore the insecure C.O. who comes to work with a chip on his shoulder and feels it’s a job perk to vent on inmates. He feels he has no control in his life except in here and is intoxicated with a sense of power. No different than an inmate.

There are a few who take it upon themselves to change their ways of thinking. They read, learn, and do everything in their power to rehabilitate themselves. But they are few and far between. They educate themselves in other ways of thought, gather information to empower themselves, and learn to value different perspectives.

In prison you pay attention to characters not names. Character doesn’t change, but it becomes better at disguising itself. If I’ve taken away anything from this place, it’s that character is everything in the end.
“Moral order seen through the medium of an individual nature.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson.
“Mastery over your thoughts and actions.” – Ghandi.
An old convict told me this once: “Youngster, based on character, you need to remember this motto: we all need to be thankful for what we’ve got, and be grateful that we didn’t get what we really deserve.”

That was on my mind, Shaun. Max Stirner once said, “The State calls it’s own violence, law, but that of the individual, crime.” So true. But c’est la vie.

Love life, buddy. Live your life as you chase your dream. Discover your passion. Be fearless as we’re all exactly where we’re supposed to be. Embrace who you are now because who and where you are now will not always be.

Sincerely,

Warrior

P.S. If your readers ever get a chance tell them to read The Lucifer Effect: Understanding How Good People Turn Evil by Dr. Philip Zimbardo. It’s the best book I’ve ever read concerning prison dynamics and the psychology behind it.

To read From Warrior (Letter 1) click here.

If you have any questions about prison for Warrior please post them in the comments section.

Email comments to writeinside@hotmail.com or post them below

Copyright © 2007-2008 Shaun P. Attwood

7 comments:

Sue O. (aka Joannie, SS) said...

Very interesting letter-prison definitely has effect on inmates, but what that will be seems to vary so much. I just got a letter from my son, and he's finding himself a conservative voice in a very liberal place. That is what is hard for him-he has few people who share his mindset, and so he's out to change the minds of the men around him. He has learned to deal with outward circumstances without becoming bitter. I do completely agree with the old timer, and not only for inmates-if we all got what we truly deserve, we probably would not be where we are. That's the other thing-my son has learned to be very thankful for his family. He knows how much he has in comparison to men around him. Just an unfortunate way to learn that finally. Many people are praying for him.

Anonymous said...

Warrior,

This is Jose in San Diego. How much time are you down and how much to go? I am piquing interest in your current situation. Are you more into self preservation in terms of growing spiritually, or do you still tow the line and put in work? Do you handle your own number now or still roll with the car? After so much time, I would think you changed and decided to lay down the sword as you stated.

I walked that linea before, and I gather that you are taking into consideration what the veterano Doc and Shaun have told you.

Also, do you have a wife or a lady and kids waiting on you?

I wish you the best and cuidate.

-Jose in San Diego

Suzanne said...

Warrior,

That was an excellent piece of analysis. Human beings, by nature, adapt to their surroundings however they need to in order to survive. That kind of environment would change anyone, sometimes for the better, but more likely in ways that allows them to fit in the order somehow.

I found the bit on COs and how they are not much different from inmates to be interesting. There is a fmous experiment conducted in a college (can't remember the name) where students were divided into prisoners and guards. That kind of Lord of the Flies socialization happened within days, and the experiment had to be cut short because of how real it became. It showed people exactly who they were, in a way they didn't expect.

I really enjoy your writing.

ChrisPhoenix said...

That experiment was conducted by Philip Zimbardo, who wrote the book Warrior recommended. I heard him give a talk about Abu Ghraib - basically the system was set up just like his experiment, with predictable results.

I think also of the quote from Nietzsche: "He who fights with monsters should be careful lest he thereby become a monster. And if thou gaze long into an abyss, the abyss will also gaze into thee."

(I think this is true of nations as well as individuals. Something to think about as we pay increasing attention to terrorism.)

32 Months in Prison said...

I've been reading this Blog for a while. I myself am waiting for my surrender date in less than 2 weeks. I don't know if it comforts you to know that your blog is helping me get back into a prison mentality so I can face these next 32 months a little easier. I'll keep reading as long as I can. Thanks, D
http://down32months.com/

Sue O. (aka Joannie, SS) said...

I'd like to offer one more viewpoint on prison living, because of what my place is in it. It is my goal as a volunteer to help the inmates I work with come to a heart change and a mind change, independent of their circumstances. Those who do rise above their living situation. It really isn't a given that survival instinct is the strongest influence. I'd like to think something greater is. And I know that by treating the people around me like human beings worthy of respect, attitudes change. Just on a personal note, it troubles me that a place like Abu Ghraib attracts so much media attention, and our own civilian jails and prisons so little.

dirtos said...

When Warrior says you either become a victim or a hunter in Prison where does that leave people lie you Shaun? Is there really no 'grey area' where people can get by without preying on others or being preyed upon? And if that isn't the case then who did you duff up for their lunch money, Shaun?