Does Prolonged Prison Exposure Leave a Negative Influence?

By · Thursday, November 20th, 2008

People who meet me for the first time have a hard time believing that I have been in prison since 1987. When I tell them that I served more than 16 years in higher security prisons before administrators transferred me to minimum-security camp, they think that I’m exaggerating. Yet it is true. Almost all of my adult life has been spent inside prison boundaries. I know that prolonged prison exposure can condition failure and leave horrible scars. Perhaps I am delusional, yet I am convinced that the choices I have made throughout my term have allowed me to serve the time without being scathed by the negative influences of prison.

My status in prison did not play such a role in the decisions I made. Indeed, prisoners do not truly embrace the man who strives to reconcile with society. The infrastructure of prison is one that perversely encourages negativity, violence, and antisocial values. The key that enabled me to grow through my confinement was a sincere desire to emerge successfully, and a will to carry my plans through. More than 20 years ago I committed to an educational program. That educational program led me to open new opportunities that would not have been possible if I would have adjusted in the ways that most prisoners choose. The choices I made, with God’s guidance, mean that I am well prepared to emerge from prison as a contributing citizen. Rather than fears, I feel inspired to work hard so that I can prove myself worthy of the love I’ve received from my wife Carole, and the support I’ve received from so many.

The growing network of support that I nurture enables me to interact with society in ways that few other long-term prisoners enjoy. During my imprisonment I have been blessed with opportunities that brought meaning to my life. The adjustment pattern I pursued has made all the difference, though it has not been an accident.

Because of my total focus on emerging successfully from prison, I have felt as if I was in prison but that I never became a part of the prison. Through my work I feel as if I am contributing to the broader society. The work has enabled me to accumulate resources that will assist my transition into society. Most importantly, my work has brought me into contact with a beautiful woman who has become my partner by marrying me in a prison visiting room. Together we are able to make plans and work toward goals. With her support, and the network I have built, I do not have the fears that paralyze so many others who have served lengthy sentences.

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