11.10.2008

Deafening Definition

What do you think of when you first hear the word, “prisoner”?

Do we think of words like crime & punishment? Or do we picture drugs & violence? Do we hear danger, murder, or robbery? Or perhaps those old-time prisoners wearing the black-and-white stripes come to mind. In whatever way we think of it, the words we associate with prisoner usually are not positive.

Yet, recently I’ve been looking into volunteering at prisons to help prisoners. Which a crazy thing to do, right? Why would anyone want to help people who have committed dangerous crimes? Why would someone help the very people who’ve hurt other people? I mean, it’s natural to want to stay away from prisoners – from criminals. After all, there’s a reason they’re in prison.

But just because people are locked up in a cage, doesn’t mean that they’re animals. They are humans - they are someone’s friend, maybe a dad, this person’s cousin, or that person’s neighbor. And when a crime is committed, do we just help the victim? Do we just pray for the victim? Care for the victim? Is that who needs the most help? Because the problem didn’t start with the victim.

When a person commits a crime, maybe they’re doing it for a selfish reason, or, scarier yet, no reason at all. But sometimes it’s also a cry for help, a cry to be noticed; because that’s the only way they know how to get attention. Maybe something is wrong, someone treated them wrong. Of course, it's no excuse, but it’s a reason.

And that’s what I want to find out. I want to know prisoners personally, ask them why they did what they did and how they got to where they are. I want to show them – prove to them - that there’s a different way, instead of avoiding them. I want to explain that I haven’t given up on them, and they still have a chance to change their lives. I want to help the people who perhaps need the most help, and yet don’t get much of it.

Some might think I’m the little do-gooder who goes around thinking that everything is good, until the day where everything builds up to a crescendo, and I break. But push hard enough through skin, and there’s hidden steel. A heart, it’s something that loves, but it’s also a muscle strengthened by use.

So, what do you think of, when you hear the word, "prisoner"?

15 comments:

Okie said...

"Prisoner" is a tough word. In so many ways, each and every one of us is a prisoner in one way or another...hopefully only to a small extent.

Those who are literally prisoners, the ones locked up in a prison or jail or whatever, might be in a better position than the rest of us who are 'prisoners' but free to walk the streets and live our lives.

Being a prisoner means being restricted and punished for something.

There are definitely cases where those locked up in jail are being wrongfully punished. And all we can do is hope and pray that the truth will prevail sooner rather than later. To those who are locked up for things they actually did (and I have friends and family who have been in this category over the years), I definitely agree with your comment that these people are not 'animals'. They are humans. True, some of them choose to behave badly and use prison as an excuse to become worse.

But in my experience, many/most of those in prison eventually find themselves in a repentant state of mind and body, legitimately trying to be good and to overcome the mistakes of their past.

We also must remember, as you have pointed out, that while they are in prison, they have family and friends 'on the outside' who are suffering in a different way. It's painful for a mother, a father, a child, a sibling, a spouse, or even just a good friend to see someone they love and care about receive the consequences of their actions in such a sad way. Prison not only breaks the prisoner, but it can break those who love him/her.

Still, I think the prisoner in an actual prison are often in a better place than those of us prisoners who walk free. We are prisoners of our own conscience...our own guilt...our own pain and suffering. And we may not have the support of loved ones or the tools of a prison warden or parole officer to help us get better and escape our prison.

To those in a prison of any kind, I would just say...seek help through honesty with yourself and others. Become better.

And to you, mariposa, there is nothing wrong with being a "do-gooder." In fact, there's something absolutely 'right' about believing there is good in everything and in trying to do as much good as you can. Congratulations and good luck to you on your desire to help others.

Michael Kent said...

Extend "prisoner"---

Are we prisoners of our bills? Our obligations? The expectations of others or expectations from ourselves?

Do we imprison ourselves and others to limit our potential?

Maybe, in your efforts to 'help' you will see there may be someone inside a prison that is more free than those walking amongst the 'free.'

~Bronte said...

wow, that is really cool ;)
but yeah, the word prisoner...kinda scary how much it means

~Bronte said...

wow, that is really cool ;)
but yeah, the word prisoner...kinda scary how much it means

Someone said...

I think of a guy behind bars in a black-and-white stripes suit.

I think it would be nice if you did go out there and help those people. It's a scary task, but it might just be worht it.

milai said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
milai said...

I wish you the best in this latest endeavor of yours. :)

"So, what do you think of, when you hear the word, "prisoner"?"

I sometimes think of them, the very people you want to help. I love watching crime shows like Forensic Files and CSI and in a way, I watch it because I want to delve into these people's psyche. I want to understand them. All of them... Not just the part who committed a crime but that which makes them human.

Sometimes I think of my family. Of how at some points in my life, I allowed myself to be a prisoner of their expectations.

Often times I think of other people. Of how they may be prisoners of their very selves. Or of others. Sometimes we live our lives in conformity to other people's expectations that we end up being their prisoners.

But most of the time I think of myself when I hear the word "prisoner." And of how I managed to break away from what was to become the spirited free spirit that I am now...

•¦Amy¦• said...

Wonderful post.

I think it's great that you're thinking of helping out in prisons. My best friend's mom works at a Juvinile Detention Center, and it's rewarding work, knowing that you're helping these people lead better lives, understand themselves better, and help them not to make the mistakes of their past again.

Personaly when I think of the word "Prisoner" I think, sadness, and compassion, because they go hand in hand. I think of the sadness that must be in the hearts of both the victim and the prisoner and their families, and the compassion it takes to help and forgive these people.

Again, Wonderful post.

-Amy
<3

Glass Mannequin said...

I'm strange. I must be. Because when I think of the word prisoner I don't picture the man in the black and white stripes. The Car-jacker, thief, or murderer.

I think of a teenage girl. Her hair is too long/short/curly/straight/boring. She thinks that she's too tall/short/fat/skinny. She wonders if people like her eyes or if they're too boring/distinctive/striking/unnerving.

At school she hangs out with the same friends every day, afraid to stray for fear of losing them. Afraid to reach out to someone new for fear of being rejected.

When really this girl is striking. She has lovely eyes. Her hair is always great and beneath a mask of make-up, her natural self is stunning in its beauty.

But she doesn't see that. She only sees what she is not. She is not ridiculously skinny. Her hair isn't perfect. Her complexion has bad days as well as good. Media, movies, rock stars, rap artists, friends, magazines, and television all tell her what she isn't every day of her life.

And the worst thing is that she doesn't know she's in prison.

Great post Butterfly. I think that you're amazing and I admire you for your efforts to reach out for those that must feel forgotten and friendless. Your compassion and sense of life and your infinite capacity for love astound me.

Glass

<3

Benji (Rafe) Pacheco said...

Yep, interesting...

this world needs to stop being judgmental and foolish. They need to stop stereotyping and coming to conclusions without knowing what their talking about...

Good job though, helping break down some walls

cabinetdecuriosites said...

I think you would like this book: Random Family: Love, Drugs, Trouble and Coming of Age in the Bronx by Adrian Nicole LeBlanc. It's a fabulous book of reportage/biography, in its own right, but also, many of the significant men in the book spend time in jail. The book is heartbreaking and lovely.

As for spending time working with prisoners--it's noble of you, but also be prepared to have your eyes opened. I think it depends on who you're working with--there are people who are incarcerated for petty crimes, like drug dealing, and then there are hardened criminals, and people who've become hardened by prisons and life in general. Which isn't to say don't do it, or that these people don't matter--but prison culture, it seems, is a thing in and of itself. Also, there's this book (I just found it googling): Prison Ministry: Understanding Prison Culture Inside and Out by Lennie Spitale. Here's a link to the review: http://findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_m1058/is_13_120/ai_104681916

Jim said...

The legal system I don’t believe there to be much justice. Many people that are convicted of crimes aren’t even the ones at fault in the end. They could have been falsely accused or simply at the wrong place at the wrong time. I believe some of the most interesting people in the world you will meet in prison. They would be the ones with a broader sense of the world after knowing what it’s like in a confinement.

Romans 12:2 said...

My uncle who's a prison guard told me the guys in prison like singing Amazing Grace. It's true, but I can't picture it. - Bob

PinkStar26 said...

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You have really interesting topics to write about. I enjoy reading your entries, too ^_^

<3 PinkStar26

Flüssiger Spiegel said...

"Prisoner"......ha I think of the person who limits themselves; who believes that if a task is difficult, it is impossible or not worth while; who does not open their mind to new ideas.
…but in reality, we are all prisoners.

For example: can you, myself, or anyone for that matter fly (without the use of some machine)?
Last time I tried (yes I’ve tried, silly me), it is indeed impossible. Everyone is a prisoner of basic laws of physics.

That’s just one example.

Hate the crime, not the person. There are too many things to hate in this world, so don’t hate people; even if they have done something horrific.
After all, people are people regardless of their surroundings.

Hope you enjoy you service.