Exploitation is a very normal experience for incarcerated people, so much so that it becomes difficult for us, as incarcerated people, to figure out if we are being taken advantage of or not. There are many situations where I don’t know if my expectations are reasonable, if what I’m asking for is nothing but the smallest crumb, or if I’m coming off as an ego diven deva.
I want to have a voice, but I don’t want my voice to be usurped or stolen. I want to be part of various projects, but I don’t want to do a ton of labor for free when a free-world person would normally be compensated in some way. Unless of course, it’s a cause I believe in and I’ve chosen to put in the time and effort as charity. In any case, I don’t want the product of my labor to be passed off by someone else as their work.
Recently, I had someone ask me for permission to use something I had written, which I appreciated. This isn’t the first time and I sincerely hope it’s far from the last. When they asked they said I could be anonymous or be named. While I know many people in prison would prefer to be anonymous or use a pseudonym because they don’t want any media attention or they are worried about being targeted by the DOC for having spoken up.
For me, that ship has kinda sorta done did sailed. This puts me on the opposite side of things; I’m going to be targeted by the DOC anyway. Also, as far as I’m concerned, if a news story comes out about me that’s free advertising. I’m worried more about being exploited as a writer because I am in prison than I am about the DOC or news media. So if anyone wants to use an excerpt or otherwise quote me, just properly cite what you use. It’d be nice to have a comment stating what is being quoted and where it is being used, but that may not always be tenable especially if the person doing the quoting is a part of a volunteer program in the Washington DOC.
Like I said, I don’t know if the way I see this is reasonable, because the “norm” that people in prison are conditioned to is that we do all the work then are expected to congratulate prison administrators on the great job they did. Is any result better than outright robbery the same as being treated well? Or is it still being exploited, just not as severely? And how am I, as someone who is continually indoctrinated to exploitation on a daily basis, supposed to tell the difference?