#152 Mental Aspects of Prison Support

April 22, 2010 at 4:38 pm Leave a comment

Mental Aspects of Prison Support

I started this blog before 11am, but not really sure when I will finish. With today being a nice day out, I think it is a good time to try to get some stuff ready to put out for spring cleaning. The city will pick up items set on the side of the curb next week, so I need to go through the attic and garage and see what needs to go. Best to do it today, the attic can be unbearably hot, so I can get up there and look around early, and avoid losing 10 pounds of fluid.

I also hope to get some printing done today too, already have a number of prison encouragement certificates ready to go, and will get my printing for cards done this week too. I also discovered (or remembered) that one of the books I did a couple of years ago was actually a blog book. It was a prison blog book of many of my older blogs, put to book form. I am very glad I saved it, it is about 100 pages of prison issues that I wrote about a few years ago. I hope to make that available as well, in May.

I encourage you to email me about these products, as I hope to make these available in large amounts in the coming months.

Now I am blogging on the mental aspects of prison support, something I don’t think is discussed nearly enough. If you remember, I said awhile back that there are several angles to my prison writing. One being the perspective as an inmate doing time, another being the perspective of the ex felon trying to get his life back together. A third is the perspective of mothers and wives and girlfriends with loved ones in prison, and the fourth was prison support sites in general.

All four are major parts, and likely a few more, in prison issues. But today I want to talk about prison support sites, and the role they are supposed to play.

I say “supposed” because there clearly is something amiss. Several years ago there was many different prison support sites online, now there are not as many. I think one of the key reasons why many don’t last, or isn’t as effective, is that the participation of the group is severely lacking.

In short, most people don’t do anything.

And that sounds like a condemning statement, but in actuality it isn’t. There is a reason why so many people go to these sites, and so few really get help. Understandably, much has to do with stress with a loved one in prison, but we often times completely forget that when we join a support group, WE have a part to play as well.

There are a lot of hidden mentalities in many members that can have a negative impact on how well a support site functions, but it all comes back to one word…participation.

This is one reason I don’t share nearly as much with other sites as I used to, because too often, people like to hide in the shadows of the site, not wanting to get involved. But by doing this, they are actually crippling the total effect and support system by their own selfishness.

Again, that sounds cruel to say, but understand the impact this has. If a site has 100 people, and 10 are making post, but the other 90 are just reading, they are adding nothing to the site at all. Think about that…90 other people are there, with the ability to help, but are too apathetic to help someone else.

This falls under a few types of mentalities, of which I want to touch on:

The Casual Reader
The Apathetic/Casual Reader
The Sympathetic/Casual Reader
The Active Reader
The Sympathetic/Active Reader

Mind you, we are talking about prison support, so these mentalities are based on people on prison support sites, or those who read prison issues.

Of the groups the Casual Reader is the most neutral. These are people who read prison posts and blogs just out of pure interest. Not everybody on these sites have a loved one in prison, some people are just interested in what ex felons, or mothers with sons in prison have to say. I have had several people tell me that although they don’t have a loved one in prison, they like reading my blogs. Often times there are readers on prison support sites that have no real ties to anyone except just the interest of reading what others have to say. For this group, I cannot expect any participation, because the intent of those folks was basically to simply read…whether as informative or recreational, it does not matter. If you asked me a percentage of people who fit in this group, I might say about 5% give or take a couple of points.

The Apathetic/Casual reader is however, tied to the subject of prison matter. To me, this is a very crippling part of every prison support, because these people often come to prison support sites with a hidden agenda. This is not to say they are “evil” by no means am I saying this, but I will challenge the idea of being supportive. These are the people that come to the site, crying and begging people to help them understand why this and that about prison and their loved one, and looking for people to help them. Yet, the deeper aspect of them is saying, “I want everybody to pay attention to MY problems, but I am not interested in helping you with yours.”

Now, nobody is going to come right out and SAY that, right? That’s why this is a mental aspect, it is a thought process that is either intentional, or unintentional. Some people don’t really know they are doing that, because they are so caught up in trying to find an answer, or rallying everybody to help THEM. But the problem with this type of person is that when they get their answer, they are not going to use that success to help others. Once they get what they want…they are gone. Lots of people who email me do the same thing. Not everybody, thank goodness. Some people try to lure me by saying something stupid like:

“Hi, I was just wondering about your books, I want to buy them if you have them available. I was just wondering, my boyfriend said this or that, and I was hoping you can help me understand what to do about it”.

And of course, after I help them, they disappear into the fog like the end of some creepy movie. They got what they wanted, and used the lure of supporting me to get it…idiots. If they had just ASKED, I would have shared the same info, instead of lying to me about what they did not intend to do.

These folks make up a large part of prison support sites, but perhaps not the largest. If I had to put a percentage on this, I would probably say about 35% of the members are this way. Again, these are people that join sites to get answers ONLY for themselves, and are not interested in helping anyone else. Once they get the answer they want, or the attention they want, they will bail out.

In a similar way, the Sympathetic/Casual reader is based on a lot of apathy, even though I said they were sympathetic. They Sympathetic/Casual reader is the one that actually makes some posts on the site, but are too afraid to “stretch forth” their hand to other members.

This is tricky folks, because there is a negative mentality working here. There are indeed folks who read posts with the idea that “hey, I can help that person”, but often times they don’t, because maybe they don’t know what to say, or afraid somebody will come back with a counter against their post, or other reasons. Let’s call it what it is folks…fear.

A lot of folks WANT to say something, but are too afraid to speak up. The problem with this is that often times there are people that need to hear something to help them, and YOU may be the only one to help them…but if you are too afraid to speak up, then that person gets no help at all. What’s the point of going to a prison support site if you have no intentions to help? Even if your heart is in the right place, and you are sympathetic to the situation, by not saying anything, you are no different from the apathetic reader. I mean, in both cases, nobody was helped.

So many people join prison support sites and hide in the shadows, reading other people who cry their hearts out for help, and many times it is those people in the shadows that might have had the answer, or at least comforting words…but most times they won’t speak because mentally, they are either afraid or lazy.

Now, I will also add in this group those who make a lot of posts…but say nothing. This includes people who make generic statements like “hi and welcome to” and silly cheap liners. This takes no heart to do, and is a very common practice for people who are trying to rack up big numbers in their post count. It amazes me how people on some sites have 30,000 posts or more, and when you actually check their posts, you see a lot of copy and paste lines or cheap one liners or other people’s posts. In all honesty, there was some form of sympathy for that person to at least make a comment, but the overall effect was still casual, because you really aren’t saying anything.

This folks, is the bulk of all prison support sites, where most people are. I would say that at LEAST 50% of all members fall in this category.

So if my math is right, we’re looking at about 90% of the people that are not participating with the support….do you see now why it is important for those people to get involved?

Getting involved does not mean making cheap one liners, it does not mean “amen” so somebody’s post in a sentence or two, it does not mean just signing up as a member. It means getting involved by adding your intelligence, wisdom and experience to help another person who needs it. Sometimes folks you need to say more than “I’m so sorry to hear about that” or “welcome to the site” or things like that.

This leads us to the Active Reader. Obviously this makes up a small percentage, but these are the people that are spending the time writing and making contact on the site. These people do more than just “amen” somebody’s post or say “hi, welcome to the site”. These are people that do comment, do make ORIGINIAL posts, and ask questions with the idea that if they get answers, they are then in a position to help someone else. But this is a small number, because as I said before, most people have a mentality that prevents them from actively helping others. And the thing with active readers, they go into these situations with the idea of looking to help…not wondering IF they can help. You don’t have to be an expert to help somebody, you just need the heart. These are the kinds of people that follow their heart, and when they see someone that has a question, the will try to answer it. This makes a small part of the group, and I would say about 9% of members fit here.

This only leaves one group left, the Sympathetic/Active reader. These are the ones every prison support site needs, in fact they need LOTS of them. These are the people that put their heart into it. These are the people that, if they read about your problem, they will sit down and write a post or blog to help you in your situation. These are the ones that will email you and ask you if you want their help in a situation.

The sympathetic reader is also very active, making original posts, answering other people’s questions and trying to help in a positive and constructive manner. There are not many people who do this…there are many that THINK they do this, but that is not true. This group makes up about 1% of all members of the prison support sites, so they are very rare. You know you are in that percentage when people make comments about your posts or blogs, or email you for advice or help, or ask you about more writings. The Sympathetic/Active reader is often sought out by others because they believe this person can help them in these difficult times. It is odd because every prison support site should have many of these people, but these people are very rare.

When you look at the whole scope of this, it may make sense that so few people are getting the help they really need, because most of the people there are not there to help, even if they wish they could.

An example of this was just recently, when a member of a group was going through a rough time, and posted a stressed-out post on the site. The person asked if anyone else was going through this, and if so how did they make it through.

For days nobody answered.

So the next day one member makes a post, imploring everybody to help this person and to show some support. One of the responses from that post was from a person who said they wanted to say something, but didn’t know what to say.

To me, there are several things wrong. One, the person who made the post to rally everybody else to help…did THAT person make a post to help? I mean, if you are calling everyone to action, you must lead by example first, right? Don’t tell me to run to a cause if all you are doing is telling everybody else what to do. That same energy should first be used to help, then you can turn to the others and ask for assistance in the matter, because you have demonstrated that you are active as well.

The second problem was the response, from a person who said they didn’t know what to say…you do realize it took an effort to even say that you had nothing to say, right?

If you don’t know what to say…why say it? The very same energy you use to be apathetic can, with just a little twist, be used to say something positive. If you don’t know what to say, tell that person that you are going to pray for them….how about that? Or, give them some advice on how to calm down.

The problem with the response is that the person was filled with fear…fear that they didn’t want to get that person’s hopes up. Fear that maybe the person with all these problems is just going to have to live with it. Often times we don’t respond to stressful posts because deep inside…we don’t see hope in that person.

“Ok genius…then did YOU answer that person’s post for help”



No…not yet.

There are several reasons why I have not answered it. Not because I didn’t want to, because I actually went to bed thinking about this person. But there are other circumstances. First, I cannot answer every question a person has on any support site. I don’t have that responsibility to do that, especially when I am trying to make an income on my blogs and books. This does not mean I ignore them, because I don’t. But if I tried to answer everybody’s question on prison, I would be burned out in a month or two.

Second…that person actually HAS my email addy. When people email me, I always leave my email for them so that at any time they need somebody to talk to, I am all ears. Those of you who have emailed me in the past know this. I am not going to chase you down with your problems, if you want to talk, you know where I am. So, if the person made a post and did not email me, that was their initiative.

A third reason is the temperature of the problem…sometimes when a person is too wound up about a problem…they can’t hear a solution anyway. We’ve all been there folks, so you know what it is like when you are so stressed that when some people try to give you advice or well wishes, we don’t absorb it.

Sometimes in order to get help, you have to put yourself in a position to ACCEPT help. It reminds me of a post I saw years ago on a prison support site, where the title of the post was, “Oh my GOD, Oh MY GOD!”

Now folks…if this is the foundation of your topic…there is likely no help for you at that point in time.

I mean, the person who wrote it was in such fear, they didn’t even make the problem the subject… the title was reflective of what she felt, which was absolute panic. When a person is in that state of mind, it is very difficult to help her. When I saw the title, I never bothered to even read the post. Either she made the title to get attention, or was so far in panic that no advice could help her.

And that sounds cruel, doesn’t it? That if a person is that far gone, there is no help. But there is a lot of truth to that. Everybody wants help, but sometimes we ignore answers that are right there, but we refuse to see it because we are so focused on the problem. Until you are able to get a hold of yourself, and get into a calmer state of mind, no solutions will work for you, because you are too busy holding the problem in your hand.

No different in prison support groups. When a person is in a panic state of mind, the possibility of help is hindered. Some posts I read and I say to myself, “I can’t help her, not with her current state of mind”. Others I read, and I see that this person needs just a little encouragement, and that is all I need to get in and help you out.

These are just some of the mentalities that are in each of us as we visit a prison support site, or read prison blogs. We all have our own agenda when we go there, whether to read for recreation, to read to find answers, or to ask questions. But until we start participating and being active in asking, or helping others, the minimal effort will always be shown…and with such effort, so few people really end up getting the help they needed.

Anyway, I’ll call it a day for now, just wanted to get my thoughts out on this. Again, you know my email, hit me up and ask me about prison issues. Or make a nice comment, I won’t bite (much).

Until then…


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.

#151 Prison, Death and Soulsearching #153 Dan River Prison Work Farm (new)

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