#137 Prison release: freedom or bondage (retro)

April 12, 2010 at 2:00 am Leave a comment

Release from prison: freedom or bondage?

I have received a few emails by people who are kinda concerned about a loved one in prison that seems to be “changing” before their release.

Before I get to that, I wanted to comment back on a post I wrote on the support I get. I wanted to make sure I extend this invitation to anyone reading my blogs; feel free to comment or email me if you think I might be able to talk or blog about an issue that might help you. Don’t feel restricted that you have to financially support me or that you have to “pay” for my blogs. These blogs are written for anyone who can get to them. Don’t feel that you “have” to support my writings financially, especially if you are in no position to. I’m not gonna email you and try to hit you up for money so I can take my yearly trip to Hawaii…

(how many of you really think I do that….wishful thinking)

Still, although I do receive some support from other people, I didn’t want you to think that I was trying to hit up readers for money…certainly I will continue to ask, because I have to. But that does not mean that every reader that emails me has to financially support me, because most can’t, which is why I blog. So don’t be afraid to email me, it does not cost you anything.

Many of you have a loved one that is within a period of time that we like to call “short timers”. The actual term is very relative, depending on who you are talking to. A guy with 3 months left on his sentence would be seen as a short timer by most guys, but a guy with a year left could be seen as a short timer to a man doing 10 years. Heck, a guy with 5 years could be a short timer to a man doing 20 years, so the term is very relative.

But let’s kinda define it as anyone with about a year or less left on his sentence. This is because with a year left, he is going to miss all the holidays one more time. Let’s talk about the mood swings your loved one have when his time starts ticking down.

So, why is he having these mood swings? Well, let’s try to identify some of these. For many of you, there is a polar opposite of attitude in your loved one. Months before, when you chat he was kind and understanding and compassionate to you, now it seems that he is upset for the slightest reasons. For some he snaps at you whenever you try to talk about the plans for the future. Some get into arguments about nothing, and some get into arguments because he expects more from you when he gets out, or is expecting you to do more for him by the time he gets out.

There seems to be a change in attitude in your loved one about many things, from his view of expectant freedom to his views or respect of you. It causes many to wonder if this man is just anxious or stressed about his freedom, or if it might be the signs of his disrespect of you. Some wonder if this is the sign of a man who might have been using you for attention and gain before his freedom.

How do you discern the difference?

Is it a mood swing, or is there true substance behind it?

There could be 50 ways of looking at it, but let’s just try to focus on these two areas. If it is a mood swing, that calls for some level of patience and compassion. If there is something more revealing, then you have to make a decision on how you want this to play out.

Let’s talk first about the mood swings. I have said before that is it common for a guy nearing his freedom to be anxious and stressed. If you have not read some of the past few blogs, jump back and check those out, they touch on some of these issues. But in part, a guy can get very stressed about the future of his life. Lots of you may not fully understand that, because you have not had to adjust from freedom to prison and to freedom again. The problem is that those who have never been in prison assume that the transition to being “free” is easy.

It isn’t.

“Well what’s the problem? He gets his freedom back, how easy is that to change?”

Well, it sounds easy, but it can be pure hell. When you go from freedom to prison, you give up your regular life and you must adjust to a new life in a very negative situation, condemnable on almost every angle. Once you adjust to it, it becomes the fabric of your live. You live, sleep, eat prison 24 hours a day, not just for an hour or two a week. The longer you stay in prison, the more you embrace prison life and release your previous life.

I wrote a post for a prison support site on this a couple of years ago, but think of it like one of those graph pie charts. When I was in college, there was zero percent interest in prison… I knew nothing about it at all. When I first went to prison, as noted in my Grades of Honor book, it was about 80 percent freedom, 20 percent prison. Even though I had been in jail for 17 months, and was pretty much prepared for prison, I still longed for my freedom.

The longer I stayed in prison, the higher that “prison meter” went up. In fact that was the title of that post I wrote, “Prison Meter”. Anyway, the longer I spent in prison, the higher it went up, and the lower my “freedom meter” went down, because I was adjusting and embracing my life as an inmate. It wasn’t that I LIKED prison, it was now the only life I had.

But get this, near the end of my incarceration, I was stressed about my freedom. Why? Because I had no idea how me, an ex con, was going to get my life back. I lost hope in everything; my dreams, my confidence and for awhile, God Himself. How was I going to get that back when they give you a $45 gate check?

These things put fear in how this college grad that had so much to look forward to was going to get his life back. Add on to this I was under probation for 3 years, and a huge restitution, I knew there was NO way I could pay that in time. They might as well put a 3 year timer on the leash around my neck, because I knew I would be coming back.

There was no way I could afford to pay that restitution. I told mom that I would rather stay in prison another 3 years than come out under rented freedom. Those were some of the frustrations I had, but in similar ways, you can hopefully understand how your loved one might feel.

The problem is that the adjustment phase is far too fast and unforgiving for inmates. Kinda like the seasons.

“Seasons?”

Yeah, follow me here….

The natural body has a period of time to adjust to the changes of weather. Right now we are in summer, and as the months go it will get cooler. Very gradually, not from 100 today to 50 tomorrow. The natural body has to have time to adjust to changes in the atmosphere, or else it gets stressed and starts to break down.

It works in a similar way for prison….or maybe that is the big problem with prisons. There is virtually no help for adjustment from prisons, they throw you out and you either sink or swim. When you live in prison for years, and have no help to get your life back together, and about to be thrown from one extreme life to the life of freedom, it can cause some serious mood swings.

These mood swings are probably the inmate trying to make sense of a very difficult and often fearful situation. He has to get his life back together, or fail, thus likely resulting in him coming back to prison. Nobody wants to be a two time loser, but it happens.

A guy in prison can be very concerned about how he is going to meet the very basics of survival, a place to sleep, food to eat and clothes to wear. And unless you are some fabulous celebrity with lots of money, the problems of readjusting to freedom can be very difficult.

And when ALL this happens, sometimes the inmate stresses out.

See, this isn’t some simple thing that can be offset with a word or two, the complexity of life does not work that way. It’s not as easy as saying, “all you have to do is…”.

It reminds me of something a friend of mine once said about basketball. We were talking about how hard it is to get a triple-double….

(note, for those who don’t know, a triple-double is when a player gets double figures in three categories. For example, 12 points, 10 rebounds and 10 assists. Think Jason Kidd, or Magic Johnson)

My friend once told me, “it’s easy to get a triple-double. All you gotta do is get 3 points, 3 rebounds and 3 assists each quarter, and by the end of the game, you’ll have a triple double”.

If it was so easy, why does it only happen about 10 times a year in a season?

See, often times we forget to factor in the obstacles of making everything easy to do. With your loved one in prison, he has a lot of things going on in his head, many are based on the fear of failing…something most guys would NEVER tell their loved ones… even though they should.

So sometimes these things stress a guy out, and it forces him to say things that he know he should not say, and did not mean to say. Freedom to an inmate is not just walking out of the prison gates. It is the entering of an entirely new world and the longer you are in prison, the more foreign it can seem.

That folks is the more compassionate answer to why your loved one seems to be upset and difficult. The other is not as compassionate. Sometimes the “mood swing” is the exposure of a person who may have been taking advantage of you. Sometimes what you are hearing is the real man you have been in love with…not the one who convinced you that he is as sincere as he let on.

Some guys in prison take pride in finding kind hearted women to get attention from…but even in that there COULD be two sides of that. If you talk to your loved one and he is always argumentative, then it could be that he is stressed out about his freedom, we have already talked on that. But it could also be that he is trying to cut his relationship from his “free meal” since he will be getting his normal life back.

Call it a “crutch”…

Sometimes when people are in a very depressing time, they need another person to lean on, for support. But once they start to get their strength back, they may decide to cut their support so they can go back to the way life was for them before the difficult times.

“So he never loved me?”

Not necessarily. I think many times people see love a different way when under different circumstances. It is very possible that under his current situation, that being PRISON that maybe he did really love you. A man locked away from society, from freedom and longing for attention from the opposite sex, yes, it could be that he did love you under those circumstances.

Love: a warm liking or affection for a person.

Note that it did not say true love…just LOVE.

The circumstances of the love was based strongly on the fact that he is in prison, and his options were severely restricted. That is not meant as in insult to you, not at all. But when a man can’t go to the “club” or the “bar” or have the freedom to even go to the mall, his male ego can be very desperate for feminine attention.

This brings in a whole box of worms concerning female guards in prison, but that is another topic. But when he fell in love with you, it could have very well have been because all the conditions were perfect for him to receive your love. He needed it, you offered it and as an inmate, it is very hard to find compassion. The conditions were perfect for the love you provided him, which may have included the phonecalls, the visits and letters. All those things may have well saved his sanity and given him a reason through one more day in prison.

“Well if all that is true, smart-ass, why is he acting like this now”

Well, first, stop calling me names…you hurt my feelings (sad).

Second, it is possible that he is reacting to the eventual changing of the circumstances. Under the prison circumstances he may have seen you as a complete angel, but now that he is going back to real life, he may feel that he does not need his “angel” anymore. Suddenly the circumstances that were so dire have started opening up, and he sees many more options to his life than before. And it is also possible that with that opening of it counters the focus he once had on you. In prison a guy might have one, maybe two women that he can focus on (mom and girlfriend or wife), but when you are free, that number expands greatly.

With that thought, he may believe that he can have “greener pastures”, even though there may not be one bit of truth to it. But maybe to add to this, some guys may be afraid of the commitment. Think about that. You invested months or even years in supporting a man in prison, and he may feel that you expect him to commit to you when he gets out. Suddenly he is afraid of honoring the person that looked out for him, because let’s face it, some of you women have done one HELL of a job supporting those guys. There ain’t enough money to pay you back for the support you give to them.

Some guys forget that it is about love, not servitude. They think that you are going to hang this “prison thing” over their heads, and they may not like the idea. It makes some sense when you think about it. It is one reason why MILLIONS of guys have gone through the system, but so very few talk about it. Nobody wants to remember those times, and unfortunately it may include their relationships too. Again, this is very unfair to you, but to him, you are a part of his prison sentence, even though you may have been a tremendous help to him. Still to him, you remind him of the worst days of his personal life, in addition to the commitment of his debt to you.

Understand, all these thoughts are based on fear, not one bit addresses the fact that you LOVE him. And it is hard to crack that shell or defense he puts up IF that is why he acts that way. Remember, he can also be acting that way because he got everything from you that he wanted; companionship, maybe some money, maybe some extra things sent to him, visits, letters free phone calls, and all he had to do was sit up there in prison and receive these things.

That’s how some guys see it. And let me say this too, it can be easy to get spoiled by a kind person while you are in prison. A kind letter here, a couple of dollars there and some words of hope can snare a guy to assuming that what he gets from you is owed to him, especially if he starts to miss it.

You can see how very shaky this subject is, because it isn’t as simple as saying “he has been using me” or “he will be fine with my support”. It is critical to understand some of the reasons why this happens. These are certainly not all the reasons, I would be a fool to think that the few words I said covers it all.

I mean, we could go on for another 20 pages on this because I don’t think we really got deep into why your loved one acts so strangely so near to his freedom. And I guess my blog didn’t make it any easier because some of you really don’t know what to do.

If you were to ask me for a generic answer for this, I might say this…back away from the problem and see how it plays out. The most important part of this situation is you. Your peace of mind and happiness outweighs what he wants. You simply have to find the resolution that gives you the greater peace, and sometimes that involves separating the source of grief for a time.

That means that if you are unsure of what to do with a loved one in prison who is near his release date, back off. Give him his space to do what he thinks he wants to do; you can’t force him to do what you want anyway, even if what he wants to do is opposite of what you want.

That means financial support as well. If a man is unstable in how he speaks to his loved ones, then that is reason to caution giving him your full support until he earns it like a true gentleman. Yeah, I know that is almost a oxymoron, the ex con gentleman, but even an ex con can learn about respect for those who love them.

One solution (of a thousand) is simply to back off, and let him see if the grass is really as green as he thought. I am not saying to close and bar the door, and get two vicious hounds and a security system… I am saying to close it but leave it cracked… if you still love him, it gives him a chance to come back to you.

Well, I think I overdid it this time, writing too much, I better go. I hope this is of some help, remember this is not the total story on this, not by any stretch, but it is a start of understanding why some inmates are so difficult to talk to near their freedom. You don’t have to totally give up on him, but always remember that your happiness must be first; you’re not going to enjoy life if he makes you miserable, so try not to force things.

Ok, gotta jet, chat with you guys soon.

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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.

#136 Hitting rock bottom (retro) #139 Middle ground (retro)

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