Monday, August 31, 2009

Interesting People, Interesting Places

Where else can you sit around and pass the days chatting with people who have maimed, mutilated, molested and murdered?

Prisoners are the essence of all of us. It is said that we are all capable of committing such crimes. Anybody who has fearfully peeked into the unlit corners of their mind knows that we are all haunted by the capacity to at least imagine inflicting our dark desires upon other others. Day by day we pass by each other, on the street, in the office, and hide this reality behind a wafer thin layer of civility that has to be perpetually refreshed. Prisoners don't. They wear the dark shadows of their psyche on the surface, their nightmare thoughts having become a physical reality that is paraded before the world. Prisoners are people who have been turned inside-out.

Perhaps that is why we are feared and detested. We are a reflection of your worst dreams and desires, a living reminder that the line between decency and deviancy is a matter of an unrestrained urge that can break free in a millisecond. We are the part of you that you hide away, the part of you that even your thoughts recoil away from.

This is why I find prisoners to be interesting. Individuals who have plumbed their mental and emotional depths and survived the acceptance of their whole psychological reality have a presence. They live within a reality that individuals who invest all of their conscious self denying fail to manifest.

Imprisonment is both a profound shock and a tortuous path of enduring psychological strain. The journey through lengthy imprisonment erodes the carapace that protects all individuals, and it either reveals the kernel of the true self or grinds the individual’s core to dust. It is a journey of true hope and true despair, a perilous route through existence that most on this earth gratefully avoid.

Prisons are the bowels of the State, semi-secret communities that exist within the wider society. Noticed, yet ignored, prisons are a parallel world where individuals disappear from freedom to reappear in servitude. Only a matter of a few feet on the pavement separates our world from yours.

Prisons are communities, micro-societies that reflect the attributes of the wider world which creates and nurtures them. Prisoners do not lose the spark that is individuality and autonomy and their journey through confinement is a never ending battle between the efforts of the State to demean them and individual efforts to conserve dignity. It is also a battle for freedom in a society where there are only the powerful and the powerless.

These are interesting people, interesting places.


  1. interesting stuff, better than the usual prison garbage in the media. Keep it coming.

  2. Sorry, but I cannot accept that everyone of us is capable of committing serious injury, hurt and inflicting permanent suffering on others. The words here are eliquant and impressive, but there is something missing here! Human nature is not always good and it is true that deep within us there is an inherent 'good' and it is usually that which keeps us from committing serious crime. We are free to carry out our desires most of the time, but those desires need not involve hurting others. Prisoners, I have alot of sympathy with and want to understand how to help them, but each individual must be made accountable for their actions. And by-the-way, if prisoners are to release murderers then it is important that the they show 'remorse' first. Society needs to know that the person they are releasing feels that what they did was 'wrong' first. That is the only decent thing to do for the deceased victim and for their families. For people who steal - well - they often use drugs as an excuse and sometimes this is the reason. However, anyone who steals must be made to pay it back before they get any type of release. Afain the 'remorse' factor must come into play before any movement is possible. Yes be tolerant and understanding of prisoners and what put them into prison, but don't forget the often sudden life changing and destroying consequence for the victims! Lets get a balance here!

  3. How does remorse work? My brother is serving life and there's not a day goes by when he doesn't think about the victim and the victims family. There's not a day goes by when he doesn't think about the forgotten victims which is his own family and small children who are persecuted by the public through no fault of their own. His children are innocent yet are spat at in the streets? Is that what the arrogant public call justice I wonder? My brother deserves to be where he is and I make no excuses for him at all. I'd like to know what the above writer thinks about the prisoners families and whether they are seen as victims also?

  4. Be careful. As much as the public are ignorant of the mindsets and lifeways of prisoners, the same could be said of prisoners views of the public. Are we all really on the brink, treading a thin line between violent and non-violent behaviour? I don't think so. I think being violent takes a bit of practice. There is a world of difference between dark fantasies and actual violent behaviour.
    By the same token I think we all have the capacity to break the law, to be cruel and to be violent. There is an interesting, and well-know psychological study by Profesor Zimbardo, the Stanford Prison experiment. You probably know it. The incidents at Abu Ghraib prison are a real life up to date example of the phenomenon described by Zimbardo.

  5. This was Ben's very first post, as relevant today as it was back then.


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