Friday, April 10, 2009
To thrive through the turmoil of imprisonment, I’ve written that successful prisoners lead proactive adjustments. They begin serving their terms with the end in mind. With a clear vision of how they want to emerge, the successful prisoner takes action putting first things first. They strive to understand their environment before they try to impose their own needs on others. Finally, the successful prisoner also pursues activities, relationships, and adjustment patterns that lead to win/win outcomes.
That’s correct. I wrote win/win. For some in prison, it’s difficult to contemplate such concepts. The prisoner without a plan feels alienated from his family and his community. When prisoners allow such feelings to overcome them, they sink inside the pestilence of confinement. To triumph over such negative adjustment patterns, successful prisoners pursue activities that add value to their life and to the lives of others.
Adjusting in ways that simply pass time do not make much sense. Those who have skills in higher education levels can easily find ways to make use of their time. Many people in prison struggle to pass their basic education courses. One strategy I used to work through the inevitable days that seemed to drag was to tutor. I bonded with a few prisoners who needed help understanding fractions, calculating percentages and working through simple algebraic equations. The win/win from such encounters was obvious. The men I tutored developed the skills and eventually passed the GED. I derived a sense of meaning, as if I were making a useful contribution to advance another person’s life. Contributing to the lives of others has truly empowered me through this term. I may not benefit, or win in tangible ways. Yet through efforts I make to ease others through difficult and challenging times, I find myself feeling stronger, inoculating myself from the despairs that can come from confinement.
Another example is the victory, or win, that comes through daily blog entries. By writing about my experiences and the lessons I’ve learned from prison, I derive a sense of worthiness. During some weeks, I’ve received letters from six readers of the blog. They write from various regions of the country, expressing gratitude for the efforts I’ve made to provide a window into the world of a productive prison adjustment.
By following the five principles I’ve described over this past week’s blog entries, I know that others can adjust successfully to prison. I’ve been adhering to this strategy for the past 348 days, and I’m pleased to announce that I only have 39 days to go.