The one thing I’ve learned in camp is if you become a man because of prison camp, that man was when you the whole time. That’s because prison camp is that it’s not about rehabilitation—it’s more like detention or being restriction.
“You did something wrong. Now go to your room,” my parent would say. Then I sat there, or lay in your bed. Instead of playing with my toys, I’ll read or write what I could. I’ll eat and go to the restroom when I’m allowed.
The difference restriction and prison camp is my parents that they tried to use put me on restriction as a tool to better me. It proved that I could lose everything, my world, family, etc., all because of my actions. But my parents taught me HOW to prevent that type of restriction again by teaching me lessons about how to be a better man and give people due respect. Prison camp, at least as I experienced it, was about locking someone in a cage until the judge said the inmate was free.
Yes, the camp has counselors, administrators and COs are told to help the inmate as much as possible. However, I’ve seen too many times where inmates are told to “suck it up” or “it’s not my problem” when inmates approach these individuals for help.
The answer to most of our problems was basically to stay away from these suits and COs until they want you. When they want you, do what they say so avoid as much confrontation as possible. It’s as if they have a list of things they have to make sure they prove to their superiors they they are doing their job. Of course, their superiors have to impress politicians, whose bosses are technologically the American people who pay the bill.
It’s not the admins job to help inmates get a Master’s degree. It is the admin job to make sure you have a GED. If there is no proof of your GED, or high school equivalent, on BOP’s database, the inmate needs to get a GED. The inmate having proof of a Bachelor’s degree is not sufficient or a suitable substitute. I could only theorize as to why that’s the case, which I will not do here. If the inmate wanted a Master’s, he’d have to get help from his family.
The prison camps responsibility is to give you the opportunity to gain a new skill or learn work-related habits. As long as there’s writing evidence of this, which is in the inmate’s reports and progress reports, they are not responsible to help you with anything else. These people have stressful superiors and co-workers who in turn will make their lives worse if their needs aren’t met, which could hurt the admins future goals.
The COs, admins, and other suits are following their personal career paths. To achieve these goals, they must please the people above them. By doing so, they get the necessary approval and recommendations needed to move to the next level.
That being said if an inmate finds God, a career path, or does any self-improvement, it will largely be because of the strong will and desire of that inmate. As for me, prison camp improved my writing career, but the spirit of a writer was in me the whole time. I made time to be a writer because I really wanted to be one. The admins and COs only focused on making sure I had a GED and life skills to maintain a job and keep my apartment. That was their minimum requirement. In fact, the camp advisor told me writing was not a good choice for a career even though she knew I had a degree in creative writing.
I’m sure there’s a conspiracy theory as to why the prison camp admins only focus on doing the minimum as oppose to going above and beyond. Those theories are not the point of this post, so I’ll discuss that in future posts.
I believe the reason prison camp was a great experience for me is because I wanted it to be an amazing experience. I believe it made me better because I wanted prison camp to make me better. I believe that prison camp made me a better man because it was the one experience that made me see who and what the man within me really was, and become comfort with that man.
Yes a CO has given me some advice on these issues. However, it was through kind and friendly conversations, not a regulated program, and thus unofficial. Some people learned a little from the developmental classes offered then quickly forgot. But they seemed to remember the developmental concepts and ideas they researched and studied. That is how these inmates improved themselves, so I’ve been told.
Also, the inmates with strong families to go home to also grew as well. Knowing that I could quickly readjust with the help of my family was the most important thing to me in prison. In fact, knowing how much support I had from family gave me the extra motivation to keep developing myself because I know it would all be worth it in the end.
Again, if anyone took anything out of prison, at least based on my experience, it was in the person the whole time. If you’re a better man because of prison, the better man was in you the whole time. It wasn’t because of programs. Our camp doesn’t have a lot of programs, it wasn’t the inmates or anything you somehow got the confidence in yourself and God to be that man.