#118 Prison Communication pt 2 (retro)

April 1, 2010 at 2:46 am Leave a comment

Prison 101:Communication pt2

Kinda hard to write this while keeping an eye on the Olympics. I got one of those portable televisions near the computer to listen to the games while I type…

(USA beats China in Water Polo…GO WORLD!)

In February of 2009, that tv set will be useless, which really bugs me. How many of you have one of those “emergency” sets, with radio and lights and stuff? I call them “hurricane televisions” because if your power goes out, you can use batteries to keep it going.

This is a problem I have with this government change…to me it does not make sense. Our country moving to digital is going to leave people behind just for foolish pride. When all television sets are forced to go digital in February 2009, anyone that does not have cable or satellite will have virtually useless televisions unless they get a special box to convert the signals to digital.

Now, I was under the impression that the government was going to GIVE FREE converter boxes…not so. I went to Best Buys and asked a guy about that, and he said you can get a coupon for $40 off. The problem I have with this is that the poor that can barely afford a living now have to pay for simple comforts that WAS free. I don’t care if the converter box is $45 and the coupon is $40 off…what makes you think a poor person can afford to spend $5? Oh, it’s no problem to people making $40,000 a year…but did anybody think about the poor in our country while trying to impress the world by saying “hey, the US is all digital”?

What this also does is makes these “hurricane televisions” useless. What are you going to do when a natural disaster strikes and you lose power? How are you going to keep in touch with the rest of the world? You’d have to use the radio because the television won’t work. To me this just looks like a foolish move based on pride and some corporate idea to make more money.

(but that’s my editorial for today).

OK, let’s get back into this discussion about communications in prison. Before I forget, email me at derf4000 (at) embarqmail (dot) com to ask about my books and other products.

We’re discussing the importance of communications for those in prison. To the novice on this issue, we may be just talking about how you need to stay in touch with a loved one in prison, but the more you peel the layers back, there is much more involved. If you are going to be helpful to your loved one, or if you are going to be in a position to understand more about prison, maybe some of what I share will be helpful.

In the first part we talked a lot about the importance of letters and cards, the simplest form of communication. Now we want to discuss a second form of communication, that being phonecalls.

There may be a lot said for a letter or card, but how valuable is it to hear the voice of someone you care about? A dozen cards or letters may not compare to hearing your mom, or your girlfriend or your wife on the other end of that phone while you are incarcerated. And the same goes for you on the other side of that wall. How important would it be for you to get a phone call from your loved on in prison?

Letters are fine, but few things can compare to being able to talk to someone. This is a very critical form of communications in prison. But let me try to share with you the characteristics of these prison phonecalls.

From the prison side…they like to call it a “privilege”. This means, in the prison’s eyes, that it is not a right for an inmate to be able to call. This is something a lot of you need to understand off the bat. I made a blog awhile back about somebody whining about how the prisons won’t let her son call and some stuff like that. She was whining about how inmates are supposed to be able to use the phone.

Uh…not necessarily.

Even as an ex felon, I have to say that technically, inmates DON’T have the right to make phonecalls. Now, inmates DO have the right to communication, because it is a very critical part of rehabilitation and let’s not fool ourselves either, it is also a powerful tool of control against inmates.

But phonecalls are NOT guaranteed. I know in jails you are allowed a phone call, but we’re talking about prison. Some prisons allow ONE phonecall a year, and if you call a busy number, that’s it!

I don’t like it, but it is a privilege for inmates to call, meaning that it also has to be earned or that privilege can be taken away from an inmate. So from my standpoint, that being an ex felon, it was important that I first stay out of trouble so I can use the phone. But it’s a lot more complex than that.

See, lots of folks think that inmates can just walk to a phone and use it…not always. And before I forget, I know there are lots of prisons that use that phone card thing…but I never had that kinda privilege and many states don’t do it. But if you can find it, I do have a blog about prisons and phone card scams….check that out if you can find it.

Anyway, from the prison side, the rules on phone use will certainly vary from prison to prison, even in the same state or even same custody level. On some of the medium custody prisons I was in, we had to sign up for phone use twice a week. In minimum custody prisons, you could use the phone pretty much after 10am to about 11pm, with some exceptions. I usually called home on weekends, but sometimes I needed to just call home, nothing major, but sometimes you get in a rut and just need to find a break from the prison life, so I might call home every once and awhile.

“Why? Please explain”

Well, it’s kinda hard to explain but I guess I can try since it might make sense to some of you. Sometimes you don’t have to be in a negative mood to NEED to call home from prison, sometimes you just feel… well, just bland. Some days in prison might be too dull, too boring or too bland. You hate to get into a stagnant state of mind, but in prison sometimes there are times where there is nothing going on. Nothing bad, but nothing good either, and you don’t want to slip into the negative. So you need to do something to keep you from slipping.

You need positive communication.

So there were times I called home, not realizing that this is what I was looking for. I mean, the life of my loved ones outside of prison was CLEARLY better than my life IN prison, so if I could just tap into some of that, even if for the 10 minute segment of the phonecall, then I might just be able to capture a little bit of that positive energy to hold me over for awhile.

I mean, think about it…how many times have you received a phonecall from your loved one, and he does not have a lot to talk about. He just called to see what you are up to and how you are doing. See, lots of you think he’s always calling because something is wrong…that is not always true.

Sometimes just to hear a comfortable voice, and for many guys in prison, to hear a FEMALE voice, is in itself encouraging. After hearing dudes all day long, all week long, it does matter that he hears from you. (I say this knowing that perhaps 99% of my readers are women).

It’s also a private time in a public place, so there is mixed emotions going on. You see, if I send or receive a letter, it is done in private. In prison, nobody is over my shoulder reading my letters with me unless I let them read it (excluding some mail officers that may read it too before you get it). But with phone calls, there is a strange balance going on.

Every phone I have seen in the prisons I was in was not in a private place. If the phone rings right now as I type this, I can pick it up and walk to my room to talk in private. But in prison, most phones are built into the wall, in the day room of most prisons. Again, this can be different for one prison to another, but I am talking from my experience.

What this creates is an area where you need to talk to someone you love, in privacy and intimacy, but you also may have to keep your voice low because you don’t want the guys to hear what you are saying. Sometimes the phones can be right beside one another, so two or 3 guys might be on the phone at the same time, only a foot or so away. Under those conditions, I’d be too embarrassed to be saying “lovey dovey” things to my girlfriend or wife with some 250 pound brute on the phone next to me.

Lots of wives and girlfriends don’t get that because they don’t fully understand the egos that are involved in prison, and the need for an inmate to stay strong. Yes, you can argue against the idea that a man does can still be strong while saying he loves his wife or girlfriend, and you’d be right. But the mentality in prison can betray an inmate if he does that.

“How?”

Well, think about it. For a man to say “I love you” and MEAN it, he has to speak not just from his mouth, but from his heart. What you are asking a man in prison to do is to open his heart for you. I am not arguing that you don’t deserve it, because you do deserve it, but listen to what I am saying.

Once the heart is opened wide enough for a man in prison to say “I love you”, it is also open wide enough for all the other emotions inside. Not only does this include love for you… but also the shame and guilt for being in prison and so far away from you.

In an inmate’s mind, the moment he “lets down his guard” that is when the emotions will try to take over. You can’t say “I love you” without also knowing that if you had not screwed up, you would not be in prison to begin with. You can’t say that without starting to feel a flow of depressing thoughts.

And the longer your heart is open to say these things, the greater the chance of those other emotions have of flooding out. Those feelings of regret and sadness will start to pour out the longer that inmate keeps that heart open.

It costs so much for an inmate to say “I love you”.

Now, some are much better at it than others, but even the best of them have to keep it in check. For that reason, most guys on the phone will try to “man up” and talk in a way that does not sacrifice their manhood. In prison, this is very critical.

But there are some key elements that apply to YOU as well, the person receiving those phonecalls. I used to get phonecalls from a friend in county jail, and most times he called not about anything important, but also because he needed a friend to talk to. But one key element on prison phone calls is the practicality of COST.

In most cases, inmates never really think too much about how much a phone call costs. I mean, since they don’t have to pay, it does not register too much to them. I say that in a kind way, because believe it or not, this is a sincere thought by inmates. Often times when I call home, I knew that the phone bill would be going up because of me… but I had to make that call…I needed a positive boost in communicating with my mom or my brothers. It’s almost like survival mode.

But on your end, you must be mindful of that. One phonecall a month is likely affordable for most folks, but some of you get calls every day…WOW! I can see why phone companies love inmates. I cannot imagine what YOUR phone bill looks like at the end of the month.

Is it necessary…I am sure it is. For some of you, it is worth it to hear from someone you really care about. Some of you might be cool with getting a phone call on weekends from your loved one. Others might be cool with getting a call every day…hey, as long as you can afford it, that is cool.

But what if you can’t?

I think a lot of readers are along that line. Collect phone calls from prison can be expensive, and lots of times we rationalize that the high cost of the phone bill is worth it to allow our loved ones to call us when they need to.

But define “need”.

“Need” is defined as: “circumstances in which a thing or course of action is required” An inmate will likely NEED to call if he is about to be transferred. He may NEED to call if he needs something from you, like the lawyer’s address. But does he NEED to call just because he is bored?

See, I am now countering my own ideas….

To the inmate’s mind, it is a need to call you when he feels too bland or bored because he needs that positive communication. But on your end, you need to understand that these calls are not free, and the continuance of them actually adds a financial stress to your life.

This is not for everyone, because some of you can afford to deal with the costs, or you don’t get that many calls to create a larger expense. But if some of you are having this situation, it also brings in another problem.

How do you limit the calls without having him think you don’t love him anymore?

I mean, if he called 10 times a week, and you want to cut it down to 5, is it possible that he might think that you don’t love him anymore? Maybe. But if this is your fear, you have to address it head on.

Sit down and figure out how much his phone calls are per month. I am sure you can check it out on the bill. Get an idea of how much you’d like him to call, outside of emergencies or stuff like that. If he calls every day, that is 28-31 times a month. In just a couple of months, that’s like 50-60 times. Do the math on the cost per call, and per MINUTE.

If that number is a burden, then you NEED to cut that down. Listen, you may have a loved one in prison, but it is not worth going into poverty to allow him to call every time he wants to….or every time YOU want him to call.

It’s stressful enough dealing with a loved one in prison, don’t add to it with a large phone bill that has you sacrificing the cable or a special night out at Ruby Tuesdays for yourself….(well, if you bundle then you’re likely gonna lose cable AND phone anyway…and internet…be careful about those eggs in that basket).

There has to be a balance that allows you to stay positive so that you can in turn impart that to your loved one when he calls. I mean, he calls because he needs to hear something positive, how much help are you going to give him if you talk about how your bills are piling up, knowing that part of the problem is these expensive phone calls?

I realize you cannot put a price on someone you love, but you also cannot help him if you are slipping under in debts. You have to work with him on a reasonable number of times he can call per month. For some of you it might be temporary. Maybe some of you fell behind on a lot of bills and need some help. If you can get him to limit his calls to maybe once a week, or even once every 2 weeks, it might help you catch up in a month or two, or maybe three if that is what it takes. But once you catch up, you can increase that number to once a week or even twice a week.

For others it might be more permanent. Maybe once a week is the best you can do until you find another situation to help your finances. Remember that this is very key because if you are having trouble with money, it will eventually be the focus of your thoughts even when your loved one calls. And that defeats the purpose of positive communications.

See, this subject is a lot more complex than you thought. If we are going to find some venues to be a help to someone in prison, we have to understand that there are more sides to this than just the simple fact that he is in prison. It goes much further than that. We’ll continue this discussion next time.

Oh well, I better stop for now, I might have said too much anyway. I urge you guys to get in touch with me, I really do what to help you out if I can by talking about prison issues. Or, if you want to email me to ask something or ask me to blog about something, my email is derf4000 (at) embarqmail (dot) com. I write it that way because lots of programs are on the internet to crawl the sites looking for addresses to gather and start spamming. I have noticed that if I just spelled it out, I end up getting a lot of spam, but if I write it in broken form, it really cuts down on it a lot.

Also, you can email me at derf4000 (at) embarqmail (dot) com if you want to ask me about my prison books, prison cards and prison encouragement certificates. I have many things I can prepare for you to help a loved one in prison. I have three “Grades of Honor” books, a Prison Blog Book and many cards and certificates.

In addition, if you have been reading my stuff for awhile and want to support my works, I am always open to accepting a gift. You don’t have to buy me a Ferrari, but anything helps. As I said before, I am not a charity, I’m just a guy trying to do something good, and maybe in doing that I can start a business in doing this same thing…writing for those with loved ones in prison.

Oh well, gotta fly.

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Entry filed under: girlfriends with boyfriends in prison, God and prison, inmates, jail, LostVault, mothers with sons in prison, prison, prison abuse, prison blogs, prison books, prison cards, prison food, prison jobs, prison mail, prison pen pals, prison support sites, Prison Talk Online, Prisonbid, rehabilitation, son in prison.

#117 Prison communication pt 1 (retro) #119 Prison communication pt 3 (retro)

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