Every newly released prisoner, set to begin a new life, is operating under a misconception: He believes he must relinquish all traces of prison life in order to become a productive member of society. Most people would not only agree but encourage a complete rebuilding of the ex-con. They may see it as an inevitable part of the process of refinement, a renovation of sorts, like the gentrification of a human being. I’ll admit, when I was released, I thought the same way. Today, I no longer ascribe to that idea. Over the years I’ve realized there are some habits I had as a prisoner that I still possess today. These habits served me well in both worlds. I may have picked them up in prison but they’ve yielded beneficial results on both sides of the gate. Here they are:

1. Reading. This one seems ridiculously obvious but you’d be surprised how many prisoners develop a habit of reading, a true love for books, only to forget about it once they’re released. They forget all the hours spent in the company of books, being entertained by the written word. They forget those nights when they were exhausted and tired, and they wanted to just close that book and go to bed, but couldn’t, because the story had gotten way too good and they absolutely needed to know what was going to happen in the next chapter. Books awarded me so many reprieves from prison life that forgetting them was (and still is) an impossibility. I love books. No, I love books. I think of myself as a bibliophile. And reading is one of those habits that carries over well from prison life to college life. When you think of the average person who’s about to begin his first semester in college, how many books do you think he’s read? 50? 60? You’ve read hundreds of books! My advice: If you just got out and you’re thinking of enrolling in college, do it. I did. You’re probably way more prepared for it than you think.

2. Being watchful. Yes, by saying “watchful” I mean suspicious and vigilant, two things that were second nature to you as a prisoner. You’ve probably heard stories about guys who were released from prison and almost immediately found themselves in trouble, re-arrested or victims of violence. I believe, in most of those cases, it’s a matter of letting one’s guard down too much, too quickly. Being released doesn’t mean you get to let your guard down. The evil you contend with on one side of the gate is the same evil you’ll have to contend with on the other side of the gate. Actually, the evil that lurks outside of prison walls, in the free world, is the most dangerous evil of all, because it knows how to disguise itself. I’m not saying you should cut yourself off from the world, but I am saying you should stay alert, vigilant, ready. The LORD asked Satan, “Where have you come from?” Satan answered the LORD, “From roaming throughout the earth, going back and forth on it.” (Job 1:7) Be watchful.

3. Exercising. Again, an obvious one, but so many prisoners get out in prime physical condition and a few months or a year later they look out of shape. Exercising is something that most prisoners do everyday, religiously. It keeps you strong, agile, mobile, in a good mood, working towards a goal, etc.,. It occupies your time in a constructive way. The previous habit goes hand-in-hand with this one. If you’re not physically capable of warding off or sidestepping negativity and evil when it approaches then what’s the use of Being Watchful. And, lets face it, anything you do is impacting your life in one of two ways, either constructively or destructively. Let’s opt for the former.

4. Envisioning and Planning. You remember those days, laying back on your bunk, staring at the ceiling, imagining what you’re going to do when you get released. You’d construct a good plan, a feasible plan, with steps, first this, then that, and you’d envision yourself carrying it out. Remember you couldn’t wait to get released to see if it worked out the way you imagined? And if it didn’t work out you had a plan B and C. Remember that? If you do, if that’s what you did, odds are you saw that plan through to the end. After that initial goal, if you didn’t get any further along, it’s probably because you set a goal, reached it, and had nowhere else to go from there. At that point it may seem like you have nowhere to go, but the answer is simple, go back to the drawing board. In one of my past posts I stressed the importance of constant goals. That’s exactly what’s needed here, another goal. Go back to that guy on that bunk, staring up at that ceiling. Don’t fool yourself into thinking that you were just daydreaming or wasting time because there was nothing else to do. No, you saw a goal and was doing what anyone with a goal does. First, they see it, they imagine it. Next, they figure out a step-by-step plan. Third, they execute, carry it out. Go back to that bunk. Envision a goal. Plan your steps. Make it a habit again.

5. Patience. 

Somebody once told me, “That’s your problem, you’re not patient. You have no patience!”

I said, “Patience? I waited 9 years to get out of prison. I’m patient!”

listen, when you were locked up, you waited in line for every single meal. You waited for your cell to be unlocked in the morning. You waited in your bunk until the C.O.’s got done with “count time.” You waited weeks in between visits to see your family. You waited for your turn to use the phone. You waited to get out of prison. Through all of that you built up your patience. That will serve you. No longer do you expect things to appear at the blink of an eye. Take that with you to freedom. Be patient with yourself and your goals. You’ll get there.

 

 

 

10 thoughts on “5 Good Habits of Prisoners

  1. I have been writing to Jamie – of my blog for ten years. He has gotten a letter her and there infrequently for short times from other people, but I have been the only constant, but too far away to visit often. There are 6-700 letters between us, which is the basis for the book I am writing – rewriting – you have read some of the recent rewritten parts that will probably be rewritten again after it gets to an editor. But my point – about what you say – is often what my letters are about and the questions I ask him to make him learn to think and understand how he thinks. He’s been locked up since he was 16 except for one brief year he met my daughter. and now his is 34. The world he steps out into is a world he won’t know, with lack of life experience. So much of what I write is to teach him, to help him understand who he is – why he is who he is. What needs to change. How to do that. How to focus and why. What part of his human nature caused this to happen and what will he do when he gets out so he doesn’t fall down from lack of life experience, from being a man who will be almost forty with the mind of a 16 year old. I press him for self education because they won’t allow him to learn. They won’t let him make a phone call. He has never physically touched his son. Anger over the way he has been treated and depression are his enemies. But still I see a boy who has grown into a man and I promised him I would be there. He is scared of getting out – in 5 years. He doesn’t have street smarts. But he is my grandson’s father and that makes him family to me. We connected for a reason. Now his real mother has cancer and she never has written him one letter. She said she can’t write to him because SHE can’t handle that he is in there. Why am I rambling? Probably because I know you understand. If you keep reading chapters I post or read it whole, you will find the book is in 2 parts. The last part of part one – Circles within Circles – will be posted with a couple days also in my newsletter. It circles around to the prologue. I don’t come into his life until the second part and become a reality. Kinda like the Ghost and Mrs. Muir if you know who that is.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Hey, how are you? Don’t ever worry about “rambling,” as you put it. I appreciate it whenever someone reaches out. Tell Jamie that nervousness about his impending release is natural, especially after having spent so much time incarcerated. Anyone who has spent a significant amount of time in prison is nervous when “faced with” a release date. I was locked up from the age of 16 to the age of 25 and while I was excited about being released, I was still very nervous.
      I remember being inside, and there was this guy I was somewhat familiar with, I mean we chatted here and there, not every day. Anyway, he had been incarcerated for 15 years and his release date was near. The day before he was set to be released he got into a fight that he himself started. I believe he was purposely trying to sabotage his own release date because he was terrified of being released. This fear of being released is a real thing. It’s very scary. You have to coach Jamie through it so that he doesn’t get so scared of his impending release that he sabotages himself. I’ve seen this done quite a few times.
      Tell him that he needs to:
      (1)Plan what he’s going to do when released
      (2)Set goals, many, not just one.
      (3)Get all 3 parts of himself (Mind, body, and soul) on the same page by reading, exercising and praying.
      I hope my response is helpful.
      You gave me an idea for a future post, about the extreme nervousness convicts may feel about their impending release.

      God bless.

      Like

  2. This is only the second blog I’ve read which deals with the subject of prison life. The other one was published by a woman who, during a short spell in prison, promised her incarcerated friends that she’d try to let the world know how harsh the conditions were. Sadly, her blog only lasted a few weeks; she was battling alcoholism at the time.
    I’m impressed with your dedication to those who are struggling in ways that you once struggled. I suspect that few people would continue with the cause as long as you have.
    You’ve escaped the trap, and created a wonderful, inspirational blog. Bravo.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you so much for reading and commenting, for the supportive words. Initially, when I started this blog, I liked and enjoyed it but I wasn’t sure how long that would last. I had to test it out, I guess. I’m happy to say that I’m past the testing stage. The result: I thoroughly enjoy writing and posting on the blog. I appreciate all of the reader support and likes and comments. Whenever I’m done publishing a post, I’m excited for the next one. I love that I’ve encountered such open-mindedness from so many good people.
      I enjoy that I can share
      (1) The experience of the teenage prisoner
      (2) Stories about life inside
      (3) Tips with those who have been recently-released about how to get on with their lives
      (4) My Christian faith

      Thank you for the show of support. God bless.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. We all need to be open minded. The lives of millions are damaged by the results of temptations on the street. Of course, these days the main issue that lands young people in prison is drug use. My son is an addict who has been to prison, and is likely to return. Addiction is an added complication, but the advice you give is hugely relevant to the addict.
        I wish you continued success. Blessings to you, friend.

        Liked by 1 person

    1. Good Morning. Thank you for reading.
      You asked ‘how do I run away from my past,’ and the answer is “I don’t.” It is impossible to “run away” from your past. Nobody is fast enough to do that. Rather than trying to “run away” from my past, I embrace it. I’ve made peace with it. My past is a part of who I am today, right now. To try to “run away” from my past is an admission to the world that I do not accept myself fully and completely. I’ve accepted my past. I’ve made amends with it. I’ve learned from it, so, to a degree, I’m thankful for it.
      How have I managed that? The simple answer is, “with God.” What would cause you to “run away” from something? Fear, right? My bible tells me that fear is not a Godly response. “Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil.” (Psalms 23:4)

      Thanks for the thought-provoking question. God bless.

      Like

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