Wednesday, March 18, 2009
Sixty-Two Days Until My Release From Taft Federal Prison Camp
I’ve enjoyed a welcome experience for the past two days. It’s been helpful for me to pass along what I’ve learned over the past 10-plus months of my imprisonment. Through my daily blog postings and other writings, I reach out to the world. Sometimes it feels as if I’m only communicating with close friends and family through these words, but other times I’m reminded that these thoughts I take time to express can bring comfort to my fellow citizens. That’s empowering.
Earlier this week I wrote about Mike, a white-collar offender whom I was expecting to self-surrender. Mike had come across my blog postings and relied upon my writings as a source of strength to help him prepare for the unknown of confinement. We exchanged a few letters, and those interactions assuaged some of the anxieties Mike felt about his imminent prison experience.
I welcomed him to our community when I spotted him walking from the chow hall. That’s the name us prisoners use for the dining facility at Taft Camp. I was able to provide Mike with a few items to ease his initial transition. More important than the few tangibles I could provide, were the intangibles of guidance that I knew he appreciated. Ironically, I felt as much therapy in providing suggestions to Mike as he felt in receiving them.
Certainly I know what fears come with surrendering to prison. Once I surrendered to Taft Camp, I felt the torment that came with separation from family and community. Fortunately, I met some nice people who eased my adjustment. For several months, I was a student of their wisdom, and in listening to what they had to share, I was able to craft out an adjustment that worked well for me.
With Mike’s arrival, I transitioned from student to teacher. By talking with him, I could lessen the concerns he had about serving a year away from his family. I knew that seemed an eternity to him, but I had just completed the journey Mike was about to begin. I could speak with confidence in telling him that with good adjustment decisions these 10-12 months Mike would serve could come as a blessing. I enjoyed buoying Mike’s spirits.
Yesterday, Mike began to exercise. Working on physical fitness was a real plus. The walking could not only help relieve stress, but it was also clearly identifiable. As I was exercising in the morning, I saw Mike making his laps around the track. He was outside for longer than one hour, which was an impressive commitment for his first day in the camp He even jogged a few laps. That type of adjustment, I knew, would help him emerge from his prison experience stronger than when he began.
It was a good feeling to know that my work had helped Mike before he surrendered. And I enjoyed the privilege of guiding one of my fellow prisoners through his first days in the camp. I hope to help him as much as others helped me. If I succeed, I know that Mike will come to the end of his term feeling as if he had learned some valuable lessons from prison.