As I’m sitting there filling out my paperwork for a newly attained job, my new boss (a white male in his 50’s) asked me where I lived in the area.
Living not far from a prison, I decided to proceed with asking if he knew the road the prison was on. He responded “of course”, in which I continued to say that I was an inmate there and I’m on a work program.
I immediately followed up with the fact that I was joking and told him that I had never been to prison. After all, I know this country isn’t very kind to former inmates – guilty or not guilty. I didn’t want to jeopardize my standing with my newly attained job because I didn’t know his views.
What I got, was not expected.
After a few back and forths, I was surprised when he proceeded to say that he doesn’t believe that as a society, we can help everyone. That in fact, people prefer to be in prison because it’s better than being outside of prison.
Taken aback, I responded,
“Isn’t that part of the problem?”… “Isn’t it sad that conditions outside of a prison are so bad that people would prefer to be locked up instead of out in the world?”
The conversation went onto talking about the sense of security, routine, food availability, a place to live.. etc. provided by the prison. These points, of why to desire to be in prison, had me shocked.
I mean, in this country – “the land of the free”, there is the (apparent) assumption that people desire to be in prison for these things which aren’t available on the outside. Furthermore, there is the (apparent) mindset that this is the norm, and ultimately being okay with that. Allowing yourself to consciously accept that our prisons are full because people prefer to be there.. because it’s easy.
“I’ve always just had this strong desire to work harder, and achieve more – not everyone has that” he continued.
Bewildered, I responded,
“I’m grateful that I had parents that have pushed me to better myself and set myself up with the sense of security that they’ll always be there in case I have a falling out … not everyone has that”, I continued.
He agreed saying, “I too had parents that helped me strive and work hard, but that’s a whole different thing that I don’t care to get into”.
Reflecting on it.. I promise, I did my best. I’d be lying if I said that this wasn’t cringe worthy for me. Maybe if I wasn’t so caught off guard, I could have responded better – in a way to better inquire on why he felt this way.
But maybe I’m the one who doesn’t get it. Maybe I have it all wrong. Is prison that good? Do people actively try to get in there/stay there because the “benefits” are too good to pass up?
Either way, I don’t actually believe this can be true. And if it is, then this is all very saddening.
Why in the (modern) world, with all of these advancements, would life be better inside a cage than out in the country that so many people are so proud of? Why can’t we as a nation provide food, housing, education, healthcare, and a sense of purpose within actual communities at an affordable rate?
Stories like these show an evident disconnect between the haves and the have nots.
I’m sharing this story to bring awareness to the ways of thinking in this country and although it is a massive feat to transform an entire justice system and socioeconomic statuses for all people, I do know that you can make a difference.
Contemplate why people think this way. Does it sound logical? Why or why not? Ask yourself and your friends the tough questions. Call them out, and get called out. Please call me out.
If we don’t stretch our understanding, regardless of how uncomfortable it may be, then we’ll never be better for the planet.
I’d wager that these conversations won’t be as uncomfortable as the folks who are “throwing themselves” into prison for a better life.
And last but not least, if you’re a “have”, please help a “have not”. 💚
For anyone wondering, I chose that expression of Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez as the cover photo because I can imagine her looking like that if she, instead of me, had that conversation 😂