Sometimes I wonder if the Wa DOC realizes if lessons that they are teaching us incarcerated folks on a daily basis in no way resembles the lessons they want us to learn.
At least, the lessons they claim they want us to learn.
For example, the DOC claims they want us to to have a learn good work ethic. When anyone has a job we’re stuck there for the duration of the call out regardless of what we do, and we’re going to be paid for the duration of that call out. No more, no less. So a common philosophy that develops is if I get my work done, and if they guy next to me has their work done, do some cleanup then we can kick back and relax until more work shows up. The c/o’s don’t like this. They want to see us busy for the entire duration of the call out. This results in conversations like the following:
c/o: Get back to work.
me: I’m done with my job.
c/o: then help someone else with their job.
me: everyone in my area is done. Do you want me to go out of bounds?
c/o: then sweep or wipe down the walls or something.
me: already swept and since when do walls need wiped off?
c/o: well, just look busy.
me: wait, if I know I’m BSing and you know I’m BSing, then what’s the point of looking busy?
It might just be me, but what we have here is a failure to communicate. When an incarcerated person says “good worker” we mean show up on time, accomplish the task at hand with a minimum of fuss, do quality work, and lend a hand to fellow workers. When a c/o says “good worker” they mean look busy and don’t cause extra paperwork. Thus, the lesson is getting lost in the shuffle.
Another example of this is in the “offender change programs” that the DOC comes up with. They’re big on cognitive behavioral theory and hammering a solid guilt complex into a body. Now, they claim that this is “evidence based” and “best practices” in “offender reform,” which makes zero sense because recidivism is still crazy high and you can’t force anybody to change.
Yet somehow they still claim that if you force people to sit in a room they don’t want to be in and repeatedly tell them they have a cognitive defect (that is a form of flawed thinking) that they will not get in trouble any more. Furthermore, claiming not to have a cognitive defect is a cognitive defect. Claiming to have dealt with one’s traumas and damage through some means other than cognitive behavioral therapy is also a cognitive defect.
So essentially the DOC wants us to be honest and accountable but not if it gets in the way of them telling us what terribly delusional violent perverted drug addicts we are.
These programs take many different forms and in all of them the only good I have ever seen is when the discussion goes off script and people are given a chance to talk through their damage. However, the curriculum itself resists making space for people to have real conversations.
They ask questions like “when did you first realize you might have a drug or alcohol problem?” How is someone like myself who had plenty of opportunity to be a druggie but made the choice not to be simply because I don’t enjoy getting high supposed to answer that?
Or “write about your anger issues.” Had some when I was younger, but nine years of Wicca and Buddhism has taught me to have a healthy relationship with my emotions. Thus, I don’t have anger issues.
I also don’t struggle with delayed gratification, understanding cause and effect of my choices, empathy, money management, or any of the other things these programs are worried about. So I’m being reminded a lesson I was taught as a wee child in Christiandom: “Give the mean people the answer they want and they’ll leave you alone.”
I’m willing to bet good money this isn’t the lesson they set out to teach. They want to teach something along the lines of having care and compassion for one’s fellow beings and thinking before acting. Ya know, those lessons that are usually learned as a part of self understanding and working towards enlightenment. But they’re not teaching us that, they’re teaching us to do as we’re told to get the shiny certificate and move on. Last I checked a shiny certificate has never kept anyone out of prison. However, I have it on good authority that enlightenment is a path to true freedom regardless of one’s incarceral state.
The real clincher on all this is the ways in which people in positions of power within the DOC use their position to extort and manipulate incarcerated folks. Like with those “offender change programs” I’ve already mentioned, DOC employees don’t set those up, run them or are responsible for their success or failure. That job gets fobbed off on an incarcerated person who has no choice in the matter and doesn’t even get paid for their work. It’s considered “voluntary” with an option of getting tossed in the IMU for refusing to follow orders. This just happened to a friend of mine. Assistant Superintendent Wood asked for a couple “volunteers” to help set up her program at TRU. A pair of guys I know said they would if they could work on it together. She said sure. Then strung them along for over a year making it so that neither of them could make any other obligations for that entire time because they could leave on any given chain. Then when it finally came time to go, she only took one of them leaving both of them isolated from the support of the other for six months. The one who did get taken to TRU lost most of his property, was constantly harassed by the guards and generally treated like crap by Ms. Wood. Six months later she finally bright him back to WSR and is now telling him that he had better keep her program running here or else.
Keep in mind this is a mentorship program that claims to focus specifically on prosocial behavior and with respecting other people. Seems to me that Ms. Woods could use a dose of cognitive behavior therapy for her cognitive defect. Taking advantage of people is definitely not a prosocial behavior.