LIFE AFTER IMPRISONMENT
Jimboy was charged in court for carnapping and he was sentenced to serve the penalty of life imprisonment. In this country, a lifer is confined for 30 years. He did just that. What made him a cut above the rest and for that matter as an inmate I would repose my trust during the period of his incarceration, especially in maintaining my official vehicle as a prison officer, was his expertise as a mechanic. Skilled prisoners are highly respected in the prison community and valued by officers. Skilled ones like barbers, writers, mechanics, technicians, artists, musicians—-well, it is only the universe that pays tribute to them notwithstanding the offense committed but by their environment as well. They make life comfortable not only for them but for those around them.
When a skilled prisoner is released, he is torn between a community (prison) that embraced and trusted him and the free community which, through the courts and his complainant have vomited him. Of course, there is a feeling of confusion and some kind perplexity. In prison, he had no freedom, everything seemed controlled. Outside, on the other hand, he is misunderstood and suspected. In prison, he knew who his real friends are. Outside, he lives in doubt and wariness. He found his faith in detention, while as a freeman he is constantly lost.
As soon as Jimboy received his release paper, he chose the middle ground. For those with little skill to express would rather stay along the periphery of the penal establishment. They would rather be seen by a prison officer in nearby town where he will be greeted as a “graduate” rather than return back to his community of orientation where a single crime may immediately be inferred on his presence. He asked me if I could adopt him. He wanted to be under my employ even if he will not be given remuneration. Just a little space where he could repair and exercise his know-how. He would be staying with a prison officer in the free community and at the same time, reminded that he is also, as he expects it, to be treated as a convict, of whom he was once and almost, loved it. Shades of Stockholm syndrome where the hostage has grown dependent on his captor on almost everything—from food to protection.
Like any total institution, prison is not designed to prepare its inmates to a life of freedom. Prison teaches and imposes a life of dependency. It is the individual outlook to appreciate the loss of liberty and it is up to the prisoner to repent, reinvent or take revenge. No amount of prison orientation program can reformulate this aspect. The period of his institutional servitude dictates the kind of life a prisoner would become once he is released. Hence there are countries that revisit the sentencing scheme in its criminal justice administration. Prolonged incarceration destroys the positive effect of disciplinary detention. It negates the value of custody and transforms the person into a zombie.
Jimboy immediately found peace of mind under my jurisdiction. He prospered as a skilled mechanic that he is. Except that he never found time to take care of his health. A few years later, he suffered a debilitating disease and passed away.
Another prisoner sought succor after receiving the release paper. She was a female inmate who appreciated music and became one of the pioneer members of the prison band. As its organizer, I maintained my members through regular jamming and counseling. When she was released, she asked if she could stay under my custody. Accordingly, after she got her discharge certificate, she went back to her community of orientation if only to find her husband serving time in the provincial jail. Her children were nowhere and their house pawned away. She feared that she had no other place to go except to go back to prison.
One day, she appeared at the doorstep of my prison quarters, eyes bulging, shabbily dressed and with a sad story. She needed a job. I required my security aide to facilitate her application for employment in a nearby farm and in a week’s time, she was a picture of accomplishment. Prisoners given a break and trusted to be absorbed in the workforce are the most industrious and diligent. They work hard and are very conscientious. She stayed for a while until one day; I found a note posted on my door. She has gone back to her family. She saved and sacrificed so that she could sustain a crusade to look for her missing children. On weekends, she would go from one town to another until finally, she saw her children employed as house help. She rented a small cottage near the farm where she was employed and from there began to turn another leaf of her life.
The challenging part for those who have been through incarceration is not on the day they served their time, but like any college graduate, it is on the day they would leave the portal of that community where they spent the greater part of learning to understand the true meaning of freedom.
Posted on September 26, 2012, in Uncategorized and tagged current-events, government, human-rights, institutional direction, mental-health, PHILOSOPHY, politics, prison administration, public perception, security prisoners, society, trivial concern, vacation. Bookmark the permalink. 5 Comments.