How I survived Prison Without Becoming Anyone’s “Bitch”

By · Monday, October 13th, 2008

Despite the more than 21 years that I have served, I have not once had an altercation with another prisoner. That was by design. I completely understood the perilous environment in which I was forced to live. Men with whom I was confined, especially during my first decades, were violent and predatory. Some were rapists. There were also gang problems and extortionists. Despite the volatility of the prison environment, I not only survived unscathed. I thrived through prison.

While serving time I managed to earn an undergraduate degree from Mercer University and a graduate degree from Hofstra University. I began a writing career that has resulted in several book deals. I married an exceptionally beautiful woman and built a family with her. I’ve kept physically fit and contributed to society in ways that have both enriched and empowered my life. The progress I have made came as a direct result of the choices I made early in my term.

Rather than seeking protection from staff or from other prisoners, I made conscious efforts to understand my environment. By observing the patterns of others, I could choose how to focus my time in ways that would minimize my exposure to problems while simultaneously maximizing opportunities for success. I became proactive in finding niches within the prison that would allow me to work toward goals without disruptions from others. Since I knew what it was that I wanted to achieve, I ensured that each step I took led me closer in the direction of my goals. And with clearly defined goals to achieve, I had sufficient reason to avoid contact with people or situations that threatened potentials for success. I was “all in,” or fully committed to my plan. That clear direction I set guided me through the term.

Prisoners who served their time without such clearly defined plans made themselves vulnerable to the volatility. By understanding my environment and how I wanted to emerge from it decades later, I knew that I had to lead a purpose-driven life. I had to stay strong physically, emotionally, and spiritually. Every choice I made was with the intention of leading me closer to success. That direction enabled me to advance through more than 21 years of prison successfully, and I am confident it has prepared me for the challenges that will follow my release.

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