#168 The 4 quarters of the Inmate

May 1, 2010 at 4:26 pm Leave a comment

The 4 Quarters of an Inmate

I know I am writing this during the NBA Playoffs (and a dramatic game last night when the Lakers knocked off Oklahoma City), but I wanted to blog today about the inmate, and the four parts of him that he or she has to deal with during their incarceration.

First off, remember that I will be making my books, cards and certificates available in May…hmmm, today actually IS May, so technically I will be making it available this month. But what I am also going to do, for an EXTREMELY limited time, is I am going to give away a few free prison encouragement certificates.

Because of this, this blog won’t be shared on but two sites, the Blogspot and WordPress. I am not putting this on any other site. Now, I said limited because it’s not like I got a $10,000 grant to do this, I am going off my own coin, as the old folks say.

I have done this before in the past, and my offer is very simple…if you want a free prison encouragement certificate to send to a loved one in prison, let me know. All I need is a physical address to send it to you. Do NOT give me the address of the prison, I don’t want to send it straight to the person in prison, it is important that YOU receive it first. Why? Because you have to sign your name to it, then send it to them…after all, that’s what you do with a certificate anyway, right?

This will give me a chance to show you what I am trying to do, and you may be able to see my sincerity. So email me to ask for one, and give me a land address, and by Monday, or Tuesday, I will send it. But this is very limited, if 100 people get in touch with me today, I am pretty sure 80 will be out of luck. Maybe more than that.

Ok, so let’s talk about the title.

To me, I believe every inmate has to deal with four basic parts of his incarceration. If you can get them to operate in each in a constructive and positive manner, you give him or her the best chance to deal with being in prison, and also give that person the best chance to rehabilitate himself…and even those around him.

I want to go over each in detail, but I am pretty sure I blogged about this before… with so many blogs sometimes I forget, but I know I talked on this before. Now, as I said, there are 4 parts, or quarters to an inmate’s incarceration, as far as his personal well being. They would be, in no order, Physical, Mental, Emotional and Spiritual.

Now, each has a very important part to play, and has a very strong influence on the inmate in particular. I would like to rank them, but I realize that every person is different, so the actual ranking could be different from one to another. So, let me first explain each quarter, then at the end, rank what I think is more important.

Let’s start first with PHYSICAL, which is easy. This simply covers the physical aspect of the inmate while he is in prison. As in inmate, it is important to stay in good health. When I was in prison, I wasn’t one of those guys that spent half my time on the weight pile, although I did kinda play around with it a few times. Some guys spend a lot of time there, pumping iron as long as they are out on the yard. Other guys play basketball when given the opportunity.

I remember trying that when I first went to prison, at Craven Correctional. The athletic shoes they issued us were the super cheap kind, the ones where if you play one good game of basketball, the soles would be worn…you think I am kidding, but that is true. After ONE GAME, my shoes were in such bad shape, I decided not to play anymore. The prisons are so slow on issuing new shoes that it was best to just wear them for walking.

But in any case, it is important for inmates to be physical, because it helps to burn some stress off of them. There is no question that prison is a very stressful place, for a multitude of reasons. This is why activity is so important to inmates. Lots of people on the outside might not care about it, and to them it would be better to just let inmates rot in a cell.

That sounds nice and righteous to an idiot, but before you get so high and mighty about that, consider that even if you don’t care about inmates…there are prison guards who are regular citizens. If you coop up a person for too long without a venue to release stress, it can result in aggression against another person. I know prisons are often full of violence, but it could be far, far worse if inmates aren’t given the chance to burn off some of that stress.

So the physical nature of prison is important, so that the inmate has the chance to burn off that stress. And we also must include the basic health of the inmate as well. During my time in prison, I never really got sick except one time, where I had some sinus problems and could barely breath. I didn’t think much of it until I figured to go see the nurse, and she told me my temperature was unusually high, so they had to give me a series of pills to help me out. But many times inmates get sick or hurt, and when their bodies break down, it makes it a little harder to do time. Let’s face it, if you had to do 3 years sick or healthy, you need to be healthy. Trust me, prison is bad enough, but to do it while you are sick makes it terribly difficult.

The EMOTIONAL quarter of incarceration is harder to talk about, because we are now talking about something you cannot see. You can SEE guys pumping iron, you can SEE a guy sick with a cold, but it is harder to SEE how a person feels emotionally. However, you can get an idea of how an inmate feels by communicating with him or her. This does not mean you can always do that, people can hide their feelings, and that is what the emotional quarter is about.

How do you FEEL about prison, or your life? If you have read my first book, “Grades of Honor” you know that there was a part where I broke down and cried in the shower. Nobody saw me cry because you had to understand how the showers were situated, and to prevent prying eyes guys usually block the cage door with clothing. But while I was at Pasquotank, I was so emotionally drained, so very low on myself, that I cried in that shower. You just can’t know how low you can feel until you hit those times.

The emotional part of prison can be a real torture, and perhaps the worst part of prison. This is the aspect that touches your heart because this quarter deals with fear, sadness, despair and all the negative emotions. Just as we have positive emotions like peace, joy and happiness, in prison it is those negative ones that hang over each inmate like their prison number.

This is dangerous because of the four quarters, this is one that the inmate must constantly hold in check. To lose in the emotional quarter can quickly lead to depression, stress, anger and maybe aggression…or worse. I told you how I attempted suicide while in jail…multiple times. There is just something very troubling when your emotions get the best of you, and you are no longer in your positive frame of mind.

But most inmates learn to push their emotions aside, and even ignore them and try to do time with minimal emotion. But don’t confuse this, I am not saying that inmates have no emotion, because they do. I am saying that often times, they have to prevent the worst emotions from taking a grip on them. It is incredibly hard to do your time when you are full of anger, or sadness, or despair. The very nature of prison is one of condemnation, and with it goes all those negative emotions. Consider a prison full of people with such feelings, it’s like walking through a open desert in the middle of a sandstorm. Sometimes in prison you can just FEEL the tension from one inmate to another.

To make it through, inmates have to learn how to conquer that emotion, to subdue it to a level that is easier to control. Preferably to substitute it with positive emotions. This does not mean they are HAPPY, but it is possible for an inmate to be in a better emotion than despair. You can’t do your time well if you are always holding your head down, you have to find reasons to be hopeful, and find ways to find peace while you are in prison. That sounds impossible, but I strongly disagree. It can happen.

The MENTAL quarter might be similar to emotional, but remember, the emotions deal with feelings. The Mental quarter deals with the total frame of mind. How are you thinking, what is your rationale while you are in prison.

This one is tricky, because I said earlier that the emotional aspect is very dangerous, and one that an inmate must hold in check. The mental aspect isn’t as dangerous, because every inmate develops a certain rationale as they do their time. I didn’t say it was harmless, I said it wasn’t as dangerous. An inmate can have a dangerous mentality, such as one who makes advances on other inmates. I’ve been in that situation before. When an older guy says “you’re cute” you have to start wondering about his mentality.

The mental aspect takes into account how you as the inmate will do your time, and how you feel about the prison life around you. Its based on what you know, and also what you THINK you know. I recall while in jail, hearing some of the juvies talking about what they were going to do when they go to prison. One guy said he was going to pick a fight with the toughest guy in prison to prove himself.

Folks…that can get you killed.

Then what have you proven?

This is based on some believe or mentality that you have to be tough when doing your time. And in truth, there is much to this. You DO have to be tough, but they were only thinking about the physical aspect…not the mental, or emotional, or spiritual.

For me, as a college grad, I had developed a mentality while in college to analyze myself by writing. I actually started writing journals while in college, never knowing that I would end up writing journals while in prison. But because of my college mentality, I often spent a lot of time looking at prison issues in a pro-active way. But it didn’t start out that way.

When I first went to prison, my mentality was based on the idea that I was now worthless, and had nothing left to contribute. I had no future, no hope because I was in prison. And the first few weeks, that is how I lived. At the same time, I hated God for failing me, thinking that my prayers were not answered.

But I was very blessed to be exactly where I was, with a cool cell mate, good guys in the dorm, and a number of other things that actually made prison very easy for me to deal with. For awhile I was doing great, I could easily do my time with the mentality of peace I had. No problems, no worries, I was doing fine. But when I was “promoted” to minimum custody, everything changed. Now I was challenged with prison life because things weren’t the same.

Yet it was that time when my mentality to prison also changed. This was when I really started getting into writing about prison issues, and started writing letters, grievances and the like. My view of prison changed from a passive one, to a more active one. It reminds me of an older guy ( who looked strangely like my late grandfather) and what he said as he overheard me and another guy talk about prison issues. We were talking about why prison conditions don’t change, and he overheard us and said, “I’ll tell you why things don’t change. Its because nobody wants to speak up.”

He was right. Inmates have a mentality that even if the prison is wrong in an action, it does not help to challenge it. Its one of the reasons why the grievance procedure is looked at as a joke, and why places like the North Carolina Prisoner Legal Services is nothing more than a joke and a complete waste of taxpayers money. The mentality of many inmates becomes excessively passive, although deep down, many inmates WANT to do something, but feel powerless to do so.

See, you can do your time in prison with a weak mentality or a strong one, its just a case of doing the time. A weaker mentality makes it harder, but not impossible. The mentality does not grip you as hard as emotions would, but it certainly has a profound impact on HOW you do your time. In fact, the mentality quarter has a major part in molding the rehabilitation of the inmate. And this is where a LOT of folks miss it. They think that whatever things an inmate develops mentally while in prison will magically disappear once he is free.

Uh….not exactly.

Remember, the mental aspect becomes his rationale, part of his life or the life around him. That won’t change just because he is released. Now, some of it will, but not all of it, and the longer he is out, the better his chances of changing that mentality. But it goes both ways, the longer he is IN the more structured and dominant it can be when he is released.

I marvel sometimes when people on sites talk about their loved ones coming home, and saying, “soon it will all be over”. But sometimes they find that the problems continue, and may get worse, because the mentality from prison never changed when they got out. It is critical for the inmate to find a positive mentality to develop and nurture while in prison, so the transition from prison to freedom is much easier.

This kinda brings us to the SPIRITUAL, which is the least applied of the four quarters. To be sure, if even a fraction of inmates developed a better spiritual aspect, the rehabilitative process would be much easier. Now, for purposes of this blog, when I say spiritual, I mean a God-like way of thinking and believing. Don’t get screwed up here folks, I didn’t say BEING GOD, I said a God-like way of thinking.

The interesting thing about the Bible is that a lot of the greatest names in the Bible spent a heck of a lot of time in jail or prison…imagine that. That does not mean that every inmate in prison has a halo around their head, but I do believe there are some people in jail and prison that God is watching over very carefully.

Yet the spiritual aspect is the least cared for by the inmate, because it is the hardest to understand. I mean, the very nature of God and prison is like having a boiling hot piece of ice…or a freezing bonfire.

And to make matter more difficult, the spiritual quarter can often times be the most confusing. I mean, physically I KNOW when I feel good or not. Emotionally I KNOW when I feel depressed or sad. Mentally I KNOW that my rationale determines how I do my time, but spiritually how can I KNOW I am doing the right thing, or believing the right thing?

I was not one of those openly “religious” guys in prison. I think every prison has a guy they call “rev” because he appears to be the “most religious” guy in the dorm or prison. I never bought into any of that, because your faith should not be determined by how you talk, it comes from how you act. A good man (whether free or incarcerated) will show good deeds if his heart is good. People will see that, especially if it is consistent.

My spiritual quarter of me was very rough at first. As I said, when I first went to prison, I hated God. This was after 17 months of being in a single cell, lots of it spent praying and building faith. But when I arrived at Pasquotank, I believed God failed me. Mind you, I didn’t say MAN failed me, I said GOD failed me. I was determined to not believe in God anymore, but I never put off the need to help a person if they needed it, and if I was in a position to do so. I would attempt to prove that I had more humanity in me, as a fallen individual, than God, who is supposedly perfect.

You really have to understand the spiritual things going on here folks. I was rejecting God because I felt He didn’t care, or just wasn’t as omnipotent as He claims. And again, I would imagine that this is outright blasphemy to God… but I recall in the Bible Jonah doing something like that too…and other people as well.

There are deep things that we cannot see, nor understand, about ourselves. These are things that only God can see and understand as perfectly as a HD movie. We just don’t know nearly enough about ourselves as we think, and this makes it harder to understand the spiritual aspect of prison.

When I first went to prison, I was empty spiritually, and rejected God. Ironically, those were some of the easiest times of my incarceration. I can’t tell you how comfortable it was, all things considering. I mean, mom had sent me $300 to my inmate account, I had a cool cell mate, there were a bunch of guys in our dorm that were cool to hang around. I had just gotten a sweet prison job as the GED assistant, and was able to go to class with the other inmate student every week day, PLUS go to the computer lab. I enjoyed going out on the yard and walking around the laps. By Christmas we had gotten a care package by the local Salvation Army, and the yearly Christmas packages from my mom, who maxed out on the amount ($60). It was like everything was near perfect for me. I could have easily done my time that way.

And maybe because of all these things going my way, I decided to start reading some faith filled magazines again…

And then everything was turned upside down.

It was like the second I started trying to get back in faith, I lost it all. My life in prison changed dramatically when I was “promoted” to another level. I wasn’t living in a cell anymore, now it was a dorm with 40 other guys. I lost my job as an assistant to the GED and now was a dorm janitor, working more and making less. I missed my comfort zone and life was much harder for me. Yet this was the time I really started focusing in prison issues. It is quite likely if I did all my time in my comfort zone, then I would never have been blogging about prison now, certainly not the way I have the last few years.

It almost implies that to be spiritual, to look to God, to seek God, means sometimes that you may be placed in places you may not want to be. Places that are not carnally comfortable, but maybe places that are necessary for something God needs you to do.

Now, I say this to you, I was not comfortable in the minimum custody camps I was in, but spiritually I was at peace. Its interesting that just when my prison life changed, I didn’t drop God and say that it was His fault. For some reason I kept reading scriptures, writing to prison ministries and even some faith filled letters and journals. That didn’t change from that point until I got out in 2001.

Of all the trials and tribulations I had during that time, being kicked out from one prison to another, all the issues I had with officers, wardens, kitchen supervisors and the like, spiritually I was calm and at peace. I was trusting that God would take care of me, and I was trusting in what His word says to any situation I had. I am not saying I got everything I prayed for, because I certainly prayed for more finances so I could buy canteen, write letters and the like. Financially it was much harder for me than when I first dropped God at the beginning of my incarceration. But there is no doubt that I did much, much more to help others later than before.

The spiritual quarter is hard to understand folks, because most times we don’t read scriptures for the spiritual meaning. We read it like a fairy tale, or we read it to make ourselves feel better than others. I call it “spiritual wrestling” where a guy feels like he has to impress you with how much he thinks he knows about the Bible. To me, those guys are harder to be around. Just talk to me like a person, and let God show Himself through you, don’t try to beat me over the head with the Bible.

So those are the four quarters of prison incarceration…I could easily rewrite this and go MUCH deeper, but this is good enough for now. If I had to rank them by importance , I might say, as far as making it through the incarceration, the least to greatest would be Spiritual, Physical, Mental and Emotional.

But to overcome and find success, I change that to Physical, Emotional, Mental and Spiritual.

The difference? Success in life has to be based on a believe, a rationale that is positive and encouraging. For an inmate to find success, I believe God has to play a part in his or her life. If so, the rationale, or mental aspects change because they would see life in prison as a way to build faith, while being a role model for other inmates as well. We’re not saying they have to be perfect, nobody here is (including YOU) but you do the best you can and work off God’s grace. With that, your emotions are held in check because you understand what you are about, and can also counter fear with faith, sadness with peace and anxiety with positive expectation.

Again, there is MUCH we can speak on this, but I will close it for now. Remember, I am offering a FREE prison encouragement certificate to a limited number of people who email me…I can’t afford to do this for a ton of folks, just those who are interested. If you also want to support my blogs, or ask about my cards, books and products, email me when you can. 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.

#167 Just pay separate S&H…yeah right! #169 What is condemnation (part 1)

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