The following email was sent to Missouri Prison Reform by a resident of a Missouri prison.
Fear And Loathing of Socialization in Prison
People tend to wear a mask that shows them off in the best possible light, humble, confident, and diligent ex cetera. They say the right things, smile and seem interested in our ideas. They learn to conceal their insecurities and envy. If we take this appearance for reality, we’ll never know the other persons true feelings and on occasion we’re blindsided by their resistance, hostility, and manipulative actions. Fortunately, everyone’s mask has cracks in it. People in time will continually leak out their true feelings and unconscious desires in nonverbal cues they cannot completely control, facial expressions, vocal inflections, tension in the body, and nervous gestures. Prison is a extremely dangerous place and if a person does 5 or more years flat like myself they tend to become a master of this language by transforming yourself into a superior reader of men and women. Since appearances are usually the first judgment people judge you by, in prison you must learn how to present the best front and play your role to maximum effect. At times your life can depend on this and at other times it can be your own worst enemy. I’ve seen inmates let their insecurities get the best of them over the years and it not only effects their life here in prison but it will eventually spill over into other relationships such as friendships, marriage, your significant other, various family members and even some with their children. This begins a mental health disaster that if not faced will endure on for years and break those relationships sometimes for good. Then that prison mentality sets in and violence usually sets out unconsciously because in prison violence is such a normal thing that it will create a form of schizophrenia that will slowly bleed out into conversations on the phone and will create more doubt to the point some become insecure and start blaming their significant other of cheating, stealing money et cetera. This is just the surface of the confusing mental health circus here in prison. I see inmates go to a visit and hug their family members with so much meaning its like they will never see them again. A visit is the only time a inmate can actually relax and breath. The environment in the visitation room is happy with a hug and kiss here or a dad saying darn good to see you boy… darn good! During a visit the inmate has a chance to recharge and reset before he or she walks out to the doom of prison life once again where they become a number and treated poorly by guards and inmates are out to break them in one way or another to gain something. In-person inmate visits and communication are a must if one is going to get any kind of rehabilitation. It lets an inmate know they are human and are loved and this sentence isn’t the end, it’s the start of a new beginning. I feel there should be some sort of organization to visit an inmate. It will cut down on drug use, overdoses, positively change their mental health and cut violence way down because the inmates will have a visit to look forward to. On the inside of these fences a visit is a major thing, so adopt a inmate and help change those integrating back into society after being in a dark hell for years because MoDoc doesn’t want them to be rehabilitated, they want them punished. This isn’t the department of corrections, it’s the department of punishment. Pictures don’t change just the people inside of them do. Don’t look at the mugshot, look at the person and help them change so they can take a different picture in life.