As you may know, my primary job is working with defendants and their families in order to prepare them for a successful prison term and more importantly re entry into society. Prison is a great equalizer and welcomes al kinds of people. My clients are mostly going to Federal Prison for terms of three years or less.
So, despite my best efforts, my clients are always surprised at whom they meet inside and how well they get along with people from very different backgrounds. Many white-collar defendants expect their prison’s to be filled with people who committed similar crimes. This is not true. Federal Prison Camps and low-level facilities are filled with people who have done everything from tax fraud to human trafficking. Most of the inmates are there for drug crimes.
I prepare people for the rules including the fact that there is no smoking and despite what one reads, very little availability of drugs inside. I also let them know that they cannot bring any personal items like tennis shoes with them. If needed, they can buy these things there. But, it never fails; they always try, and even write letters home to their families, that they have not been allowed to buy this or that or they want a room change etc…I remind them that it’s prison, not summer camp and the rules are non negotiable. For most, this fact becomes a certain type of freedom after awhile. They have no choice but to surrender to their circumstance and move on.
I found the rules tough and first and very unfair. Of course, this is when it was all still about me, and I thought I was at summer camp or a low end Motel. But, once inside for a few months I realized that giving up the control can be a good thing and the extra time forced me to look at myself at what I had done to end up in Prison. After all, that’s the real lesson and where the change must come from. Inside-but inside ourselves.
Once again, this insider believes that change comes in many forms and is possible with lots of hard work and a little humor.