Monday, November 26, 2007


As I sit and wonder how I, and others like me, get so tangled up in a system like this. There is a long list of surface reasons that come to mind.
But after all these years, there has never been a process of trying to find out "why" we do some of the stuff we do. We sonder how most inmates constantly return to custody over and over -- and then you come to realize that no one really tries to find out WHY!
You always get the basic question: Why did he do that?
But you never get to the bottom layer peeling -- why? It's continuous, like an onion.
  1. Why did you do it?
  2. Why were you feeling that way?
  3. Why did you think you had no choices?
  4. Why are you so angry?
  5. Why won't you let people in?
  6. Why did you react so fast, etc., etc.!
I think if you get inmates to to sit still and process (really precess) these types of questions -- in a group or structured setting -- you start to get to the meat of what makes inmates tick.
I didn't decide to do any internal inventory until I had access at some structured group settings where some questions were being asked and some life stories were being told.
Then you start to connect and upen up. You become less defensive and more humble! I feel that if you are spending $40,000 a year, you can at least require and Alcoholic Anonymous-style meeting once or twice a week. You'll find that inmates act better when people listen -- and hear them.
It did wonders for me -- and made me want to do better. And that makes society better.
Isn't that what we all want?

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Being Thankful from the Inside?

It gives me great pleasure to be able to express some of the things I'm thankful for -- even while I'm in a place as dark as this prison. Prison can be -- and is -- one of the most dark, lonely, scary, hopeless and miserable places on Earth.
But one of the things I'm thankful for is somehow finding the faith, hope and strength to get past all of the negatives 00 and tap into the willpower to shine a little light on some of the despair. Contrary to most beliefs, the most noticeable emotion inside jails is not anger or hostility -- it is FEAR!
It touches everyone, but no one will admit it. The new prisoners fear what lies ahead. The seasoned prisoners fear what will happen if, and when they can't tow the line. And the older prisoners start to fear the mortality of themselves and loved ones.
The guards fear what will happen if they were to lose control. And society fears what will happen ever time a prisoner walks out the gate!
I'm thankful that I have a family that has kept me close -- especially my mother -- which inspires me to be strong. I'm thankful for a second chance at life because, even though I never considered myself violently dangerous, some of the stunts I pulled could have gotten me killed.
I'm thankful that most people around me have consistently seen the good in me -- even when I was acting like a fool.
I'm thankful that I'm allowed a platform in a daily basis to interact, and sometimes help people -- specifically youngsters who seem to be going down the same tragic path I was on.
I"m also thankful that I've been able to stay fairly healthy in an unhealthy environment.
There is a long list of things I'm thankful for on this Thanksgiving Day -- especially now that I truly understand the essence and importance of being thankful.
Finally, I'm thankful that, even in this dark place, I get glimpses of humanity from people every day as I sit and watch them go home to their families. They know -- and even say, "How important it is that you come home soon because we need you out there and there's so much that yhou can be doing to help in the community."
Some may have even prayed on it at their Thanksgiving Dinner table.
As I end this holiday expression, I just want to convey how good it is to just be thought about -- and that's truly worth being thankful for!

R. Wheeler