Friday, February 27, 2009
Eighty-One Days Until My Release From Taft Federal Prison Camp
Earlier this week I attended a seminar for motivational speaking. A chaplain from the camp sponsored the program by bringing in a speaker from the San Francisco area. Approximately 50 other prisoners attended, and everyone seemed to enjoy the presentation.
The speaker’s name was Will Carson, and after his introduction he asked the audience members to comment on what they were hoping to get from the program. I was struck by what one of my fellow prisoners requested.
“I’m about to be released,” Wayne said. “I only have two months left. I’d like to know how you could help me find a job in the Bay area.”
Wayne had come to the end of a 10-year sentence. We were not close, but since we both were confined within the boundaries of Taft Camp, we couldn’t help but have some interactions. I saw that he spent considerable amounts of his time involved with recreational activities. He coordinated softball games, oversaw tournaments of table games, and was devoted to watching reality television shows. Wayne appeared to be in his late 40s, and I feel sad to report that his adjustment seemed typical of most men I met in prison.
Ironically, the prison system seemed to encourage prisoners to adjust as Wayne did. It really was like a summer camp, with everyone engaged in activities that would help them pass through the days in mindless fun. Unfortunately, as Wayne would soon discover, all of the men would release from prison to the harsh reality of touch economic conditions. The time to prepare for release was not in the final months of a prison term, but the day a man walked inside prison boundaries.
The trouble was, to prepare for release, a prisoner had to dig deep and muster indomitable will. He had to think creatively about steps he could take to prepare. The prisoner who was committed to build a life for himself upon release had to recognize that the only rewards he would receive for his efforts would be internal, as administrators would not show any concern for the steps an individual took to prepare for release. The prisoner would have to find satisfaction inside, from knowing that he was doing everything within his power to thrive. His efforts should spawn a new confidence. That growing confidence would have to feel sufficient to force him to wake early and invest more energy each morning of his confinement.
I approached Wayne after the seminar to offer some suggestions. He could write letters of introduction to prospective employers in an effort to get a head star. I saw Wayne’s discouragement, his anxiety about what he would face. I could have been more effective had I spoken to him at the start of his sentence. If he had spent as much time preparing for release as he spent playing games, Wayne would have more prospects for success upon release. He seemed a good example of why our country struggles with 70-percent recidivism rates.