An Encounter with the Dark Side

Editor’s note: content warning for sexual harassment and suicide mention

5/4/20

I spent my May the Fourth Be With You being tested by the Dark Side.

There’s this guy who was (until last night) on my unit who is extremely infatuated with me. A few months back he tried to befriend me as a tactic to get in my pants. As soon as this became clear I stopped talking to him and got some help from other incarcerated people to create a social buffer between me and him. He told me he’d pay me $20 to be my friend. I am many things, but an escort is not one of them. I said no.

He continued to obsessively stalk me like Boba Fett stalked Han Solo. (Where’s that fan fic? Rawarr!) And I continued to dodge him like Ben Kenobi avoided the storm troopers on the Death Star.

Well yesterday was the climatic finale. He repeatedly came up to my door and yelled insults and threats at me. He said he was going to kill himself by hanging if I didn’t start talking to him. He then got more insistent. Yelling that he wasn’t going to respect my space any more. At which point I was very confused. He was respecting my space before? News to me. More yelling, more “join me or else”. The whole thing had a weird Luke-Darth Sidious vibe.

Eventually he forced his way into my and my cellie’s cell wanting to fight the two of us and, much like Anakin facing off against Obi Wan, we didn’t fight each other at all just stood there yelling how we disagreed with each other with him threatening to “smash me out”.

Through all that conflict I managed to keep my head and not give in to the temptation to act in anger and violence. Though I was very very afraid and fear (or so I’ve been told) leads to the Dark Side.

He left and the cops came in a few minutes later. Cuffed him up. Cuffed me up. Took us to the lieutenant to sort it out.

Thankfully they believed me that he had been stalking me and needed to be sent to SOU, the prison’s psych ward. I managed to convince the lieutenant that there was no physical altercation and that he needed to be put in SOU. I hope they give him the help he needs and he’s able to find his way back to the Light.

May the Force be with you.

Roll credits.

Being a Nerd in Prison

In prison, I have been lucky in being able to find nerds to play table top games with (like Magic: The Gathering, Warhammer 40k, DnD and Pathfinder). Of course, being in prison there are certain adaptations we have to make.

A game of Warhammer lasts longer than than a single yard period, and the models are more expensive than most prisoners can afford, so we make army lists, lock them in for the duration of a campaign, then play on grid paper. We will check out a couple board games from the office (preferably Risk) for d6’s.

Playing DnD or Pathfinder has similar hurdles. Two to three hour time blocks to play in and lack of dice. We make our own character sheets on lined paper because we don’t have access to a printer/copier. Again, grid paper and checking out a Risk board solves two of these problems, but for the d4, d8, d10, d12, and d20 we have to get creative.
Some solutions include:

+ using a deck of playing cards (tossing the kings gives you two sets of 24 cards which is good for the d4, d6, d8, and d12. “Reroll” jacks and queens for d10 and d20)
+ scientific calculators have a random number function (random number * dX + 1 = dice roll)
+ make a spinner from a paperclip card stock, and cardboard

To play Magic: The Gathering probably takes the most prep work. We can’t get the cards themselves, so we have set lists and ban lists sent in with descriptions of all the cards. We then go through these lists to make standard, modern, and commander decks.

The making of a deck takes forever. We cut scraps of paper and tape them to playing cards and write the card description on each. Alternatively, we write the card descriptions on a separate sheet of paper and just put card names and converted mana on each line of the card. Thus we can fit six or seven Magic decks on one deck of cards.
There is an ongoing debate among us about going for the “best cards” verses being mindful how much collecting the cards of a given deck would cost in reality.

The thing that makes gaming really difficult is that some DOC employees target gamers and will take our books and other materials claiming we are engaged in an “unauthorized group activity.” This is the same phrase used to describe gang activities.

Because rolling perception and initiative checks is obviously the same as drug smuggling and extortion.
They are able to do this because gaming is not expressly allowed, or disallowed.

I believe gaming should not only be allowed, but supported in the same way drawing, painting, and beading are, with a permit that allows us to buy gaming materials from approved vendors.

Gaming is a pro-social activity which requires cooperation to make it work. It also often involves a lot of math and logical reasoning skills, especially when playing RPG’s.

The thing I tell people when they ask me why I play them is “The point of nerd games is not the game itself. The point is giving socially awkward people the means to interact with other socially awkward people in a positive way. Also, they’re fun and bring me joy.”

The Need for Better Demands

6/17/20

I find it interesting whenever a group which is protesting creates a list of demands and it starts getting really long. I just this week participated in a letter writing campaign which centers on incarcerated people’s right to vote. At the end of the form letter I was given to copy and send in was a long list of demands, all of which are issues of basic human dignity of people living in prison. Some of them, however, are quite problematic. I’m reluctant to be overly critical because I don’t know the context which many of these demands have arisen from. Here I will reproduce the list of demands, and provide commentary on the one’s I think are poorly thought out. Also, the order is in need of serious reorganization, but that’s just me nitpicking.

+ End all forms of solitary confinement in excess of 30 days
+ End all excessive bail and provide fair release laws for everyone
+ Repeal all “85% mandatory minimum” laws, three strikes laws, and habitual felon laws which enhance punishment
+ COVID-19 Pandemic: provide adequate testing and PPE free use of phone and video visits during pandemic

This is the first one I scratched my head on. The whole reason there is a demand for free phone calls is because we are charged 11 cents a minute plus a 50 cent connection fee for our calls here in Washington, and our prison phones are considered to be very cheep as compared to other states. Furthermore, we do not have the ability to put funds directly on out own phone account. Meaning the only way for us to make phone calls is if our people a affluent enough to be able to afford $2.70 per 20 minute phone call. Furthermore, video visits are garbage and should be free anyway. The picture quality is terrible and half the time the audio cuts out. We’re talking circa 2002 quality levels here. The demand should be for incarcerated people to have access to the internet, and not just “during the pandemic” but permanently. Then we can figure out our own Skype calls.

+ Repeal any Structured Sentencing Acts and restore Fair Sentencing Act in effect prior to 1994 retroactive to all prisoners.
+ End all SRG policies that place unreasonable restrictions on visits

Define “unreasonable.” The PIC will pretty much always have a far different definition of that word than prison abolitionists.

+ End life sentences and sentences that result in death by incarceration retroactive to all affected persons
+ Pay living wages for prisoners’ labor
+ Establish meaningful rehabilitation, education, and employment opportunities for prisoners
+ Reestablish all person’s right to vote who were born or naturalized in the US and end felony disenfranchisement

The whole point of the letter writing campaign is getting incarcerated people the right to vote and they list it as the tenth demand?!? This confuses me.

+ Repeal all prison policies that restrict or limit who can send money to prisoners through JPay or other financial servers

Yes, but why not end the financial abuse the PIC visits upon incarcerated people by allowing us to be in charge of our own money while incarcerated? The state holds all my money “in trust”. I’m not ok with this. Incarcerated people should be able to have and use independent bank accounts.

+ Repeal all prison policies that allow prisoners to be charged a $10.00 administrative fee for prison rule violations

This should be phrased “any fee” not “$10 fee”. I’ve seen this type of argument play out. The PIC’s answer is to charge a $9 fee instead and claim the demand was met.

+ Limit strip searches to only known assaultive prisoners

This one is the whole reason I started this critique. I’m in prison for murder and have two infractions for fighting. However, I have not been in a fight in six years. Am I an “assaultive prisoner? The creation of loopholes like this allows for the creation of new categories of people that can then be oppressed for being in that category. The same thing has happened with attention deficit disorder, oppositional defiant disorder, and borderline personality disorder diagnosis. Queer folx and POC get classified in these ways more often than their white or straight counterparts thus allowing this to be another way to cause systemic harm. Strip searches are bad. The only time I believe they should be considered is if it is known that someone is hiding something. Not suspected, but known. And in those situations the person in question should be given the opportunity to come off their contraband to avoid the strip search. But even this I’m iffy on.

+ Establish a prisoner’s bill of rights
+ Repeal the 13th amendment to the US constitution
+ Reestablish parole procedures for everyone, even those serving a life sentence
+ Repeal jail and prison censorship policies that restrict prisoners from the market place of ideas, publishers, outside supporters, and incarcerated persons of the opposite sex from corresponding

I was on board with this until it went sexist/homophobic. Why only “opposite sex?” Why not simply “correspond with other incarcerated people?” If they want to cite security concerns then limit it to communication through email and instant messaging which can be logged and tracked. There is no reason why prisoners should not be pen pals to each other.

+ Provide punishment for police/prison employees found guilty of the excessive use of force, intentional false arrest, abuse of power including false or trumped up disciplinary reports
+ Punish prosecutors for misconduct, vindictive prosecuting, or abuse of power
+ Provide better food, medical, dental, and mental health care for all prisoners
+ Increase penalties against attorneys who provide Ineffective Assistance of Counsel to clients

I’m iffy on this one. People don’t work for the public defender’s office because they want to send people to jail. The public defender’s office needs to be given staffing, funding, space, and resources to match that of the prosecutor’s office (or better yet, take money from the prosecutor’s office and give it to the defense office). They need to have their ongoing education paid for so they can offer the best defense possible. And they need to have their clients released without bail pending trial so they can be working With their clients on their defense, not For their clients.

I also find it interesting that there is no demand to decriminalize the sexuality of incarcerated people. This applies both to the sexuality of queer and straight incarcerated people. Queer folx are punished for having relationships with other incarcerated people and have their platonic friendships sexualized die to the homophobic leveraging of infractions which criminalize “consensual sex and public displays of sexual affection.” Both straight and queer people have their sexuality criminalized through mailroom censorship and infractions which criminalize sexual conversations and photographs over the phone and through the mail as well as extremely limited or nonexistent conjugal visitation.

I feel like this list of demands, which is similar to other lists of demands I have seen, has a strong antiracist critique, and middling anticapitalist critique, but does not have any sort of feminist or queer critique and that is a problem.

Basics of Anarchy

6/15/20

I am glad to see that autonomous zones are popping up all over, especially in light of yet another killing of a black man by police, this time in Atlanta. Autonomous zones are important because they are a real world demonstration of anarchist principles in action.
People have this weird idea about anarchy, that it is chaos and the destruction of structure. This is false. Anarchy is still a way of organizing a community, it simply uses a framework for doing so which is chaos radically different than that which has historically been used by state systems. Underlying all state systems, whether a monarchy, democracy, or dictatorship, is the assumption that people are foolish and inherently bad. They have to be controlled and protected from themselves. This is why state systems have laws, they are trying to control the inherent evil of the human species.

On the other hand, anarchy assumes that there are good people and clueless people and only very very rarely people who intentionally like to cause harm. This means, on the whole, we can trust people to be experts of their own lives and make their own choices.
This does not mean they get to choose to do “whatever they want.” There is a social expectation that the choices will be made within the context of caring for themselves and their community. This is where anarchy gets its “lawless” reputation. Instead of codified laws, the breaking of which is considered harm to the state, anarchy encourages the natural tendency to connect and avoided those things which damage our collective connections. When connections are broken it is considered harm to the people one’s actions impact. These norms are developed through praxis, the taking of one’s values and ethics and putting them into daily collective practice. When harm occurs it is considered damage to the relationships between people to be repaired through transformative collective action.

Anarchy, when viewed through the lens of the state is seen as the removal of systems the state deems necessary to control the evil nature of people. Furthermore, the lack of hierarchy in anarchy scares anyone who craves power (ie anyone in power).
Anarchy, on the other hand, sees state systems as hierarchical impositions designed to allow one group of people benefit at the cost of another group of people (or several groups of people). This requires people to be alienated from each other because if they were not alienated, they would not be able to take the actions needed to maintain the artificial separation between oppressor and oppressed. This process destroys the humanity of everyone involved and is specifically harmful to those whom are being oppressed.

These two points of view have what is known as “irreconcilable differences.” This is why anarchists feel it is so important to create spaces of community, care, interdependence, and resilience of all shapes and sizes ranging from as big as autonomous zones to as small as a couple of people carving out a sliver of community in the cracks between oppressions. These spaces form a container for self transformation, where we can dismantle internalized oppression and toxic scripts, where we can rest and recharge, where we can sit in the fire of our pain and heal. It is from and thanks to these spaces that we are able to venture out and do the work.

I hope this helps you to understand why spaces like the CHOP/CHAZ are so important.

Why Do Some Trans Women Weaponize the F-Slur?

Editor’s note: content warning for discussion of sexual content and slurs

I don’t really understand the following, and it is sorta a regular thing here. Trans women who hook up with cis males then call them a three letter f-word if he shows any sexual/romantic interest in another cis male. It’s kind of a hateful thing to say to a person one allegedly loves and cares for, right?

Of course, I’ve never really understood why people use hateful epitaphs on each other which apply to themselves. I’m not talking about women who call each other “bitch” in a friendly joking way, or people of color who use the n-word to mean something similar to “dude” or “bro”. I’m talking about using these words in intentionally hurtful ways. Saying it’s just internalized oppression seems like an easy copout. Yes, water is wet and air is for breathing, but why?

Thinking about it on my own, I came up with the following: Trans women who call their cis male partners that f-word do so because when he shows interest in another cis male it brings up questions for her as to how he sees her. If he sees another man as a viable potential mate it calls into question her own womanhood. A spiral of doubt occurs where the person she’s chosen to be intimate with may not see her as she sees herself which calls her identity as a woman into question. Essentially, a crisis of “What does he think of me as when he sticks it in my poot-er?”

While this is a fine and wonderful hypothesis, it was in need of testing. So I went out and interviewed some of my fellow trans women.
The first trans woman I asked had a radically different opinion. She said she used that f-word on her boy-toys because “it’s hurtful and it keeps them in line.” As in, she is leveraging the specific psychological impact of that f-word on a cis male who is intimate with a pre-op trans woman to control his behavior with (often public) shame.

The second trans woman gave me a answer more like the one I expected. That is, I was told to piss off and that she’ll call her boyfriend whatever she likes and that is none of my business.

The third trans woman I asked told me she couldn’t stand the idea of being with a man who had been topped by another man. She’s creeped out by the thought of being with a man who does the topping, but disgusted by the thought of being with a bottom. She has no problem being friends with a gay, bi, pan, or queer cis man, but she specifically only wants to be intimate with cis men. This fits more with my initial theory. However, she went on to say that she used that f-word in a regulatory manner. If her boyfriend was acting too feminine or was being too friendly with another masculine person, she would use it to “make him act right.” Effectively, forcing him to act within the bounds of toxic masculinity even though he has already stepped outside its bounds by entering into a committed, long term, monogamous, intimate relationship with a pre-op trans woman.

Four other trans women I asked all gave similar answers to the previous three. Two trans women I asked denied using that f-word even though I have heard each of them say it to the face of their significant other on a couple occasions.

I’m yet to sort out a conclusion from these conversations and am certainly not even close to forming a new hypothesis. I simply find it interesting.

Thoughts on True Crime

Incarcerated people have a complex relationship with the “True Crime” crowd. Authors like Anne Rule have fetishized us and demonized us to such an extreme degree that a vast majority of incarcerated and formally incarcerated people will move heaven and earth to stay out of that dubious lime light. When crimes are committed serious harm is caused to the survivors. This is no reason to write off the person who caused that harm as evil. People are people.

If you haven’t watched it in a while, turn on your local “Most Wanted” show or any sensationalist True Crime reenactment show and for each segment of the show think about how the person who was harmed may feel about what is being said, and think about how the person who caused harm may feel about what is being said. Then during the commercial break think about how everything on the Internet is immortal. Think about that person who was harmed and that person who caused harm seeing those clips in five, ten, fifteen years. About having people they’ve just met randomly saying “Hey, I saw this thing about you on TV last night.” How might that impact them? Year after year after year of being defined as the worst thing that’s ever happened to you, or being defined as the worst thing you’ve ever done.

I bring all this up because I went and did something scary. Whether it was brave or foolish is yet to be seen.
There is a podcast called Criminal Perspectives. I recorded an interview with them which, by the time you read this, should be posted. My reason for doing this is the same as for why I write this blog. I have something to say and I want the opportunity to say it. The prison industrial complex and criminal (in)justice system are a terrible idea. People are people. Life is complex and we shouldn’t throw our fellow humans away. I am both a survivor of criminal harm, and the causer of criminal harm. I think this may be the first time I’ve ever uttered that sentence out loud. I have both caused and received serious irreparable harm.

Sit with that for a moment. Is this statement also true for you? If yes, as a person of both positionallities, what do you believe should happen to you as a person who has caused harm? What do you believe should happen to the people who harmed you? Are these answers similar? Why or why not?

Guest on Criminal Perspectives

A few months back I agreed to be interviewed by the podcast Criminal Perspectives.

This is the first time I have ever been interviewed by “the media.” When I was in county jail I was asked if I wanted to be interviewed by KXLY 4 and the Spokesman Review. But back then I was kinda sorta broken and trying to talk to anyone about anything was a bit if a challenge. Let alone speaking to a reporter about the harms I caused.

Now that, years later, I have finally put my brain together and have the wherewithal to speak about the harms I’ve caused, I doubt KXLY 4 and the Spokesman Review even know who I am. I feel a need for taking public accountability for my actions, however, I no longer have a mainstream media venue for doing so.

Part of my desire to start this blog and one my reasons for being interviewed by Criminal Perspectives is a direct result of this need. Furthermore, I see this as an opportunity to speak about the collateral damage which is caused by the PIC and the criminal (in)justice system. I believe punitive systems cause more harm than they prevent and transformative/restorative practices are necessary if we are ever going to transform our society into one where harm can be interrupted before it is caused.

The process of the interview was interesting to say the least. I had to call in to Criminal Perspectives and record 20 minutes of conversation at a time for roughly an hour and a half. I had to open some very painful boxes in my head, while also taking care of myself in the public space of the unit dayroom. Balancing all that was extremely difficult.

Thankfully, I had planned ahead and scheduled a phone call with Megan (the Awesome) afterward and let some of my acquaintances know I would need their support after I got off the phone.

This backfired horribly. One of those acquaintances took the opportunity to push up on me and try and incite a violent conflict between us because I was emotionally fragile in that moment

Thankfully, I was able to handle it gracefully. It was certainly a well timed attempt to get me to act against my values. Of course people arbitrarily trying to drag me down to their level is a part of my normal. In prison we call it “Crab Bucket Syndrome.”

This is the context I figured out how to be an okay person in, reclaimed my sanity in, and am now trying to find my way back to the real world from.

I hope I was able to really show up in the interview. I feel like I was able to resist the urge to perform, but (of course) I have not been able to listen to the interview itself so I have no way of knowing what I sounded like as I spoke.

If you’re interested in hearing me tell my story, or are simply curious as to what my voice sounds like, check it out.

Adjustment

2/15/20

I am not adjusting well to TRU. More accurately, I’m not adjusting well to being without John.

Two weeks ago I had a mental health crisis. It was four months in the making due to sleep deprivation, stress from DOC staff, and a voyeur for a cellie who liked to play passive aggressive head games. I did my best to change cells and get on better terms with the B-unit staff, but I was completely unsuccessful in this.
So I had a melt down. I have a well founded fear of causing harm to others when I’m in a mental health crisis. Because of this I went to mental health and asked them to lock me in a box for a few days. They did as I asked (sort of).

I was placed in IMU and given a 506 major infraction. Threatening another person with bodily harm.
This I do not understand. I did the literal right thing and I was punished for it. I ended up spending 9 days in the IMU (my shortest hole trip to date) and was put right back in the same situation which had destabilized me. Thankfully, the cellie I had who was such a problem with is no longer assigned to my cell, but I still have a whole group of unit staff who’ve made it more than clear, I am not welcome in B-unit.

I feel like a horse who has caught the scent of rattler but doesn’t know where the snake is.

I don’t really know what to do in this situation. I am trying to get moved to A-unit where I won’t have to deal with staff targeting me, but… I don’t know. 

I’ll keep ya’ll posted.

Temporarily Blind

1/31/20

So, I spent half of today blind. It reminded me of being a part of the “disabled for a day” program back in highschool. Back then I spent a full 24 hours blindfolded. Today, I spent 7 hours with my eyes closed after going to the optometrist because my eyes were so sensitive from the dilating eye drops that my vision was a nearly uniform blur of pain.

Yes it was temporary, but it was also terrifying in a way I don’t really know how to describe. When I was blindfolded there was a physical object keeping me from being able to see. There was nothing physically wrong with me. But today, I didn’t have a blindfold. In fact I went and put on a blindfold to protect them from the light which was causing me so much pain.

It was just me with broken eyes.

I love being able to see. I love paintings and statues, sunsets and flowers, I even like mimes and patterns written in dust by idle fingers. I love reading. Audio books are cool, but they’re not the same. I love being able to see the words on the page and the sighted process of reading.

The smallest glimmer of possibly losing that frightened me to the core. Intellectually I knew my vision would come back as soon as the eye drops wore off, but emotionally I could not convince myself.

Thankfully I had a group of people who sat with me, walked me to and from dinner, and kept me from panicking. This gave me a new perspective on interdependence. I’m used to getting help with things which require a high degree of dexterity when I’m having a bad hand day or I just don’t have the ability to do it in the first place. Shuffling cards, sewing, zipping my jacket, small things which make all the difference.

However, relying on someone else to keep me from walking into anyone in the lunch line, that’s a whole new level. Walking into the wrong person in prison, even a soft prison like TRU, can result in an immediate fight. It’s a little scary. One of the few upsides of prison is all the furniture is nailed down and, having lived here for four months, my feet already know where everything is. My cell has been organized the same way for months, so I know where everything is by touch. This made making myself lunch, using the restroom, and settling in for a nap much easier than it would have been in an unfamiliar space.

Today renewed my commitment to (dis)ability and accessibility issues. While I do not believe my temporary loss of sight is comparable to the experience of anyone who is permanently blind. It gave me enough of a taste to be grateful for my vision and all the other ways I enjoy the privilege of being (mostly) able bodied and not having a visible (dis)ability.

Maturing in Prison

It’s a long road, from childhood to adult, and certainly not an easy one. It is all the more difficult for incarcerated people. I’ve watched others grow up in prison, grew up here myself, and I’ve observed an arch or series of milestones people seem to pass through on their road to adulthood.

Youngsters, 18, 19, 20 years old, who show up here fresh from county or transferring in from juvie all have one thing in common. We’re angry. I say “we” because I know I was one of them, still am in certain respects. I remember feeling so worthless, scared, desperate to be left alone, needing so badly to be held and told it’ll all be ok. And behind all that, rage. Nobody could tell me nothing because I was a “grown ass man.” I thought I could do everything myself, completely ignoring all evidence to the contrary, like not eating or showering for a week. Nevermind my nonexistent self-esteem which made attempting anything new an exercise in futility. I didn’t need anyone. I was an island. An impenetrable fortress. I would have random crying jags every day and wakeup from a dead sleep screaming every night. Hell, still do.

Having experienced this, seen this over and over and over in the people around me, I have come to relate immaturity with selfishness, self-destruction, and self-delusion.

The first step in moving out of this is realizing someone, literally anyone, cares about oneself. That they see a version of oneself worthy of being cared for.
When the self looks into the mirror of another’s uncomplicated love and sees oneself as they do, it breaks that self in a good way. This might happen a dozen times before it sticks, or might only take once. It’s once it sticks that life becomes difficult.

There is no need for skill or effort as long as one is embracing the low road. This is a part of the reason so many people who are total messes can so easily convince themselves that they have their shit together. But once one starts climbing for the highroad, life gets hard.

I remember spending winter in bed three years in a row. I got up for meals, and occasionally to go outside, but otherwise, I was immobilized by that gulf. Between what I was and what I could be.

I had so much drama in my life from wanting to be a good person, but having no idea what that means. This is the point in time that everyone is the biggest shitshow they will ever be. This causes anyone who has their life together to not want anything to do with them at exactly the moment when they need to be mentored the most.

This is usually the point in time where people will start signing up for random programs not knowing what they are, and not knowing what they need. It is in this stage where “jailhouse conversions” happen. People are desperately searching for anything which will give them a sense of purpose and they will latch onto religion as a substitute for self worth. I’m lucky in that I already practiced Wicca and I picked up Buddhism when I was in this stage. These beliefs gave me the tools I needed to grow. I’ve seen people get to this stage and last in their new found faith up until they are faced with a choice where what they want to do and what their faith says they should do are radically different. I do not know what causes success or failure at this point, but one of three things happen:

1) the person loses their faith and returns to square one with more self hate than ever.
2) the person starts on a cycle of making strides and backsliding in such a way that tricks them into thinking they are growing when really they never get past the same point.
3) they dig deep and successful set their ego aside to do the right thing.

If one does the third thing, growth happens and one begins to be less of a mess. If they repeatedly make the same choice over and over, then other people who already have their life together will usually take notice and start helping.

I wasn’t so lucky. It took 5 years for me to get the support of others after I got my shit together and caused me to be stagnated for quite a while. I wasn’t able to learn the lessons of asking for help and trusting others because I didn’t have people around me who were trustworthy. Every time I gave someone a little trust, they broke it. Thankfully, I didn’t give up. I eventually found some people who held my trust and didn’t betray me.

Of course, the work didn’t stop there. It never stops. It circles back around perpetually with ever more subtle versions of every lesson. Once a person reaches this point, a person continues to be mature as long as they keep doing the work. If they stop, then they begin to stagnate, decay, and lose their hard won maturity.

It seems to me that once a person reaches their 15 year mark this happens for a while. The sheer amount of time spent locked up causes them to question the point of all the hard work it takes to resist all the toxic institutionalizing norms we are surrounded by. It was so easy being a mess way back when, and being a grownup is so tiring, exhausting, seemingly pointless. Especially for those of us without a release date. The thought of “I’m gonna die in here so what’s the point?” has no answer. It simply comes down to what kind of person does one want to be.

I have done 13 years so far, and I am planing on putting in for clemency at my 16 year mark. Which means, if I am not an exception to the pattern, I will be smack dab in the middle of an existential crisis while I’m fighting for my life and freedom.

Discovering and holding on to one’s maturity while incarcerated is a long difficult road, but so far I’ve found it’s worth it.