Whether driving in my car or interacting with others, I continue to deal with the effects of decades of life in prison. I am okay and am doing well in the process, and am grateful to be in a position to write about my experiences to give others an idea about how life inside a prison cell may have affected them or a loved one or a friend.
On Quora I wrote the following to support the author in a linked article from The Marshall Project:
Having spent decades of my life in prison and knowing how I was affected by the lack of intimate human contact (no sex with another person for decades), I can identify a lot with what the author of the linked Marshall Project article wrote.
In 2017 while still inside the United States Federal Bureau of Prisons, I wrote Damage and Prison that relates to the effect of long-term imprisonment and having to live in unnatural ways. Over three years after my release, I am still affected by the damaging effect of the prison experience.
I share my experience to help others who have been there and can identify with the things I have written so that they know that they are not alone. As part of my recovery process, I practice being open and honest because it is what I must do to remain emotionally and psychologically healthy.
My hope is that the content of the following blog and article will help others to understand more about Life on the Inside and Out.
Once again I had an epiphany: open the doors to let others inside. Inside the contents of Life Inside and Out and my profile on Quora, which is where that link takes someone.
My hope is to open the doors for anyone experienced with the criminal justice to submit content for publication, or to just comment or otherwise participate. The goal is to facilitate positive change through knowledge about what goes on inside prisons. Though American prisons are the primary focus, anyone from any country may respond or send in submissions. Click here to send email.
Please spread the word to anyone on the Outside who has been to prison, or is still serving time in prison, jail, or any other form of confinement, to consider participating. With online access, anyone may respond to questions. Thank you!
If interested in submitting content for Life Inside and Out on Quora.com, email me what you have in mind, or let me know if you want to participate.
All submissions will be attributed to the writer who submits the content, unless otherwise stated. Only submit your material!
Any submission should include the identifying data you want publicly displayed, such as your name, institution, state, or anonymous ( e.g., Wayne D., Atlanta, GA; WTD, Atlanta, GA; Anonymous, United States Federal Bureau of Prison, or any other way you want attributed).
The decision to publish submissions for publication will be at the sole discretion of the owner/administrator, or other delegated personnel at WonderfulThingsDone, dba, WTD4U.com and StraightfromthePen.com.
By submitting content for “possible” publication, you agree to allow the administrator at WTD4u.com/StraightfromthePen.com to edit the submission, if determined necessary by the administrator.
INFORMATION ABOUT QUORA.COM and Life Inside and Out.
Quora’s mission is to share and grow the world’s knowledge. Not all knowledge can be written down, but much of that which can be, still isn’t. It remains in people’s heads or only accessible if you know the right people. We want to connect the people who have knowledge to the people who need it, to bring together people with different perspectives so they can understand each other better, and to empower everyone to share their knowledge for the benefit of the rest of the world.
Gather around a question
The heart of Quora is questions — questions that affect the world, questions that explain recent world events, questions that guide important life decisions, and questions that provide insights into why other people think differently. Quora is a place where you can ask questions that matter to you and get answers from people who have been there and done that. Quora is where scientists, artists, entrepreneurs, mechanics, and homemakers take refuge from misinformation and incendiary arguments to share what they know.
Quora now has Spaces, which is essentially a blogging platform for those approved. I am the administrator for the Space, “Life Inside and Out.”
Life Inside and Out: Truthful Answers About Prison Life and Life After Release
Details: Life Inside and Out publishes content about life from inside prisons and about Life After Release.
These are actual Questions on Quora.com you may want to submit an answer to for potential publication.
I’d love to hear different opinions on this: Should prisons be replaced by psychiatric facilities? (If not, do you think prisons should have better amenities/conditions and what kind)? All opinions are welcome, especially if they’re elaborate.
What does it mean that there is no parole in the US federal prison system? Does it mean there is no chance of getting out early? (I’m the victim in this case.)
Why do we refer to a prison as a rehabilitation center, when most prisoners come out worse than they were?
Can you remember the first night you spent in jail or prison? What was the thing that kept you up? Do you remember that fateful day?
Question: Is it harder to do time in general population or Solitary confinement? What’s your personal experience? Since confinement is detrimental for the health which is it still being practice today?
What are the vital lessons one can learn in prison?
What happens if you don’t follow the rules in prison?
Have you ever felt like doing something so bad that you don’t care if it would land you in jail?
After reading all the above, feel free to submit questions you may want posted to see if anyone will answer, or your answer to any of the above questions. Thank you! wtd
Reposted Content:The Truth About Incarceration was originally published by PrisonLawBlog.com in November 2014, before being posted on StraightfromthePen.com.
On Quora.com I posted The Truth About Incarceration, Part I, in response to a question. Then I received several positive comments, one of whom suggested I start a YouTube channel to inform the public about Life on the Inside. Since then I monetized certain answers on my page and in my Space, Life Inside and Out.
Click Here to visit my more popular profile page and associated content. Thank you for your continued support.
The Truth About Incarceration, Part I
Prison can be rough: It can also be a positive experience for those who seek and receive help for the issues that lead to prison, which does not occur often. A cast of personalities comprise the abyss of prison. From some spring enlightenment, displays of moral fortitude, exemplary characteristics; others demoralization, sexual perversion, denigration, solicitude, debauchery, the darker side of humanity. The truth is that many aspects of prison are degrading and humiliating to those who have maintained their dignity and self-respect; however, prison is not always as portrayed in books and movies. A “snap shot” will not reveal the whole picture. Even documentaries on prisons leave a false impression about the whole of prison life or the prison experience. I know. I have lived most of my life behind steel bars, concrete walls, and fences layered and lined with row upon row of razor wire to separate me and my peers from the civilized society. I write this to assure the youth that there is nothing glamorous about incarceration, since I have read and heard how some juveniles and young adults give props to those who have been to jail, prison or “juvvy,” for having survived the experience.
In some segments of society those returning form prison are given a favorable street-status: a reputation of being a “tough” person, a Gangster who may have had to fight daily to make it out alive; someone solid who rode hard, did not “rat” and did his or her time without taking down the neighborhood. Some may have did similar things and been all of that, but for the most part, very few have that experience. But, with the State of Georgia prison system having thirty-two prisoners and one guard murdered since 2010, it proves that prisons can be a dangerous place. Statistically, though, and in actuality, the vast majority of people who go to prison never have a physical altercation. In relation to “riding hard” and not taking out the neighborhood, an over-whelming number of criminal defendants plead guilty to shorten their sentences; only a small percentage of which do not assist the government by implicating others in crimes in order to get the reduced sentence. (See note below for clarification about guilty pleas.) Some who testify and make deals are worse than Judas in the Bible who betrayed Jesus Christ and got him executed, because they lie to get a deal. Numerous criminal defendants fabricate higher drug quantities and exaggerate other committed criminal acts so that the prosecution recommends a larger sentence reduction for providing “substantial government assistance.” Personally, I do not see that as honorable, or something that is worthy of praise or favorable recognition.
Most prisoners are not so scandalous as to create crimes to get deals. Though many may make deals with the devil to get time off, only a few are so morally deficient that they create crimes to get the deals. To cooperate with the prosecution is one thing, and maybe it is what is needed to protect society–telling lies against another person for a lesser sentence is an entirely different matter.
Cases like the one against former mob boss, John Gotti, seem to violate ethical codes, when the prosecution uses testimony from a serial murderer like “Sammy the Bull,” who confessed to almost twenty murders for a five-year plea deal to testify against John Gotti, who received a life sentence and later died in prison.
NOTE: Not all who plead guilty make a deal to testify on others: some just do it because of the evidence stacked against them and the unlikelihood of winning if going to trial. Either way, though, the prosecution makes a deal for a shorter sentence to avoid spending the time, money, and resources necessary for taking a defendant to trial. That fact proves something a lot of criminals in prison hate to admit–pleading guilty is helping the state or government. Ninety-six percent of federal defendants plead guilty: state court plea bargain averages are probably the same. Unfortunately, many of those who plead guilty actually take a plea on charges they are not guilty of committing because it was part of the deal with the prosecuting authorities to “clear the books.” Throughout the years I have met a few who pled guilty to multiple crimes as a package deal for a reduced sentence.
PRISON POLITICS: As reported on a televised documentary, even though John Gotti was a powerful figure on the streets of New York, prison predators zoomed in to make him pay for protection. No one is guaranteed amnesty from prosecution by those enforcing silent prison codes written by unknown authors: Not even a mob boss when left to fend for himself.
Someone sent to prison for murdering someone may actually be a coward and be victimized while in prison. It is easier to stand fifteen feet away and blast someone with a gun than it is to go toe-to-toe in a knife fight or other forms of hand-to-hand combat. It does not take a lot of courage to gun down defenseless or unsuspecting people. It takes a lot of courage to deal with a combatant on equal terms. Please do not misunderstand what I wrote. That is not applicable to everyone in prison for such crimes. Some prisoners are notorious and extremely dangerous; however, most of those find themselves locked in a cage twenty-three hours per day, often after assaulting or killing another prisoner or prison guard. Nevertheless, very few prisoners have to physically defend themselves while serving time in the vast majority of American prisons. The point is, everyone does not have to be skilled in hand-to-hand combat to survive in prison. If such skills were required for survival, only a few would make it out alive. In general, survival in prison depends more upon the personality of the person and the nature of their crimes that lead to prison, more so than it does upon their size or combat skills. A petite person with a strong personality, who the more dominant prisoners respect, may get out of prison unscathed, while a larger, ostracized person with a weak personality, becomes prey to the predators. Truthfully, a larger person is more apt to be physically challenged than someone not so large. Prisons are filled with staff and inmates suffering from a “Napoleon’s Complex” (an inferiority complex rooted in insecurities and the lack of physical stature, which leads to the afflicted going to extremes to prove that he or she is “tough,” and do so at the expense of others).
As shown with Mr. Gotti, powerful people may be preyed upon by the unknowns of society. On the other hand, an unknown may become recognized or powerful inside prison for a variety of reasons: being a “Stand Up” person (not informing on others, standing their ground in physical altercations, fighting for what is right, standing behind their word); being ruthless, yet honorable, reliable; maybe even for changing their lives, helping others, and ironically, by staying out of the mix. To become powerful in prison requires getting involved in the mix (running drug and or gambling operations, participating in prison politics (determining who can stay in general population, who has to go, who gets “hit” (piped or stabbed or both), or by organizing prison disturbances (food or work strikes, violent protest against prison administrations, etc.), behaviors which carry major consequences). But, in my opinion, no matter who they are, what they have done or claim to have done, every prisoner deals with degradation and humiliation. It is the nature of the beast. All prisoners have to get strip-searched (must remove all clothes at the command of a guard who inspects and views private areas to look for hidden items); get told when to go to the chow hall, when to stand for security counts, who can visit or who they can call on the phone and for how long they can speak. Many prisoners are stripped of far more than their clothes (pride, dignity, integrity, self-respect ….).
A prisoner may be recognized in society and prison by writing a book, or by doing something constructive, such as creating or teaching programs to help others, or by learning and teaching life skills to help others become better people. The press never hears about those prisoners because the press goes to prisoners who cause trouble or who get out and commit horrendous crimes, and thus become poster-children for the politicians who push “Tough-on-Crime” bills. Those bills are often written by members of the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), whose contributors include officials from the private prison industries that profit from high incarceration rates.
In Part II I will write about the influence of the private prison industry on prisoners and the politicians who vote to push the agenda that assures high incarceration rates in America.
Essays & More Straight from the Pen by Wayne T. Dowdy
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This post is complimentary to allow his voice to escape the confines of prison walls.
I received and scanned the letter from an anonymous inmate at the Federal Correctional Institution in Petersburg, Virginia. For more information on institutions under the control of the United States Federal Bureau of Prisons, clickHere
Content is as submitted. Straight from the Pen does not express any opinion on the subject matter or content or the validity of any statement or claim made.
In the last few years I have written a lot of content relating to prison life and its effect on people, including myself. My writings help me to share life experiences, good and not-so-good, with others who may be interested in reading a different perspective on a variety of topics.
I will end this blog post with my answer to the question that includes a link to a blog I wrote before my release and an excerpt:
“No Doubt! Decades in prison changed my personality. In prison a person often must behave in a different manner than he or she normally would do, especially when interacting with others.
“In the more dangerous prisons, such as some of which I’ve lived, a person becomes desensitized to external stimuli and learns to do what needs or doesn’t need to be done to survive. Sometimes that may be not responding when seeing an act of violence that the more humane side wants to stop or by getting involved in a situation that he or she doesn’t want to be involved in (participating in a violent confrontation between groups or individuals). Only those who have lived in the insane world of incarceration may understand what that means.
“Some of the behaviors learned to survive may involve violent reactions/responses to a situation that a sane person would simply walk away from, whereas in prison, if a person walks away, he or she may become a target for the predators if viewed as weak or a coward, and then have to deal with more unpleasant situations than wanted, examples too vast to go into for the purpose of this answer.
“For me, one of the ways that prison life changed my personality is how I function in a relationship and interact with others. Even though I may appear to be normal on the surface, on the inside I may feel more restrained to behave the way that I would have before my incarceration where the display of affection is concerned.
“I was released on August 28, 2018, after serving 30-years and 10-days in the United States Federal Bureau of Prisons. Though I have successfully reintegrated because I decided to change my life in 1995 by getting clean and sober, I still cannot let go of the effects of decades in prison.
“In 2015, long before my release, I paid my publisher to create a website for me because I wanted my voice to reach outside the bars, walls, and fences. On my website I posted a blog, Damage and Prison that I will post a link to below. Some of the effects of decades in prison continue this day. The difference is that I refuse to allow my old behaviors and past to control my actions today. I focus on making healthy decisions as I continue my quest for a better life and to help others to know that change is possible.
“Upon release, I will have to undo decades of damage done by the prison experience: suppressing healthy emotions and needs. I must learn to be normal, whatever that may be in an imperfect world filled with broken toys, damaged from life experiences.
[I continue to work on behaving as I normally would do as a free citizen, if not for the damage caused by the extensive incarceration. I still struggle when it comes to relationships. I am a decent, loving, kind, and gentle human being, who doesn’t have to pretend to be bullet proof.]
“I sent out the following message to a friend who posted it on social media for me. A lot of people liked it so I will share:
’03/05/17: To all my Faithful Friends: I hope March brings each of you lots of love and success or whatever your hearts desire. For me, I’d be happy to be able to walk through a park or to sit on a lake to listen and observe the beauty of nature; to give someone a hug, kiss someone special, or to just be able to sit and watch animals; or to pet a dog, cat, rabbit, or a chicken. 🙂
“Hell, I’d be happy to watch some fish swim around in an aquarium. I am looking forward to going to the Georgia Aquarium to see some really big fish! So much in life people take for granted until it’s gone. One day soon I will be reentering the human race. Then I will be able to interact with each of you like a normal person. Have a great day! Wayne’
“[Georgia Aquarium: I walked by the Georgia Aquarium en route to a job fair at the City of Refuge, but have not been to watch the fish swim. I will go soon now that I’m working and can afford to buy the tickets. Everything is expensive!
“Update 08/02/2020: I did visit the Georgia Aquarium with loved ones and enjoyed the experience but was shocked by the entry-cost and food prices.]
“The above indicates the desensitization of prisoners. For over 28-1/2 years, my physical contact with other humans and mammals has been severely restricted. That is definitely true on an intimate level about lovers and sexual intercourse! During this sentence, I have resisted romantic-relationships. I’ve only been involved in three since 1988, and only one of those included physical contact (hugs and kisses on a visit).”