Read PDF All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Jail

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But they are just people, like us. We are learning more about how the brain works, how childhood trauma affects development, and creating effective treatments. Read about ACEs and the affects of early childhood trauma. Visit a prison or volunteer or donate to organizations helping with rehabilitation. Sign in Get started. Volunteers are practically untouchable. And the inmates are grateful and respectful that you are even there to begin with. What they overwhelmingly experience is that society has forgotten they exist.

Many believe that is what they deserve. But they are grateful we are there. I am as white as they come, and I spend my days working on the computer, reading self-help books, blogging, going to Pilates, and quilting. I have experienced nothing like the lives most of these men have led. But I am there to help, and I have something to teach, and they want to learn. Nobody claimed they were innocent.


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Overwhelmingly the men I worked with felt regret at how they had hurt their victims, the community, and that they had let their families down by making poor choices, doing drugs, and getting into the situations that led to their crime. There is an elaborate system of rewards and punishments to control inmate behavior. Inmates get sent to solitary as a punishment for breaking the rules or being caught with contraband—not necessarily having anything to do with violence.

What I learned volunteering in prison for 6 months – Be Yourself

Most of the men work full-time. Many work at the laundry, which does laundry for the prison and all the nearby hospitals and institutions. Others work doing telemarketing I have no idea what this is about and it sounds kind of scammy.

How I learned to read -- and trade stocks -- in prison

There was a lot more laughter, friendship, and camaraderie than I expected. A lot of the men in our class were there because their friends told them they had to take it. They look out for each other. They laugh and joke. The biggest pain they feel is that their families and society have forgotten about them. Ostracism is the worst thing humans can endure, and prison often means permanent loss of family and friends.

I was a year-old white suburban kid from Burbank, California, walking into a maximum security prison. I realized that I needed to keep a positive attitude. I was determined to honor my friend by constructively serving my time, emerge a better person, and contribute back to society. The first couple of years were the hardest.

12 things you will only know if you have done time in prison

I had to navigate the violence and politics inside prison. I was moved around from prison to prison several times due to overcrowding. Prison had nothing to offer as far as self-improvement goes. Kitchen jobs that paid twelve cents an hour were all that was offered.

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I realized early on in my year term that if I wanted to better myself, I'd have to do it on my own. I began to educate myself and enrolled in a distance learning program that offered an Associate of Arts degree.

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One day, while sitting in my cell, I read a story in the the only prison newspaper in the country, the San Quentin News. I only had three years left on my sentence, and I recognized that this program could be a way for me to become relevant in the job market and create a path for a successful reentry back in society. I requested a transfer and fortunately, it was granted. I was headed to San Quentin. A rumor which I heard repeatedly concerned the smoking ban. It goes like this: This contract guarantees that the tobacco company will be the sole supplier of tobacco to the prisons for all time.

So when the prisons banned smoking, they violated this contract and in order to avoid an expensive, lengthy lawsuit, the prisons were allowing smoking again.


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You learn to savor the small things. Try to find the goodness in everything. One of the highlights from this time in my life was watching a hummingbird. When we keep stuff inside it festers and stews into something hard to get past and turns into resentment. If you have an issue concerning someone around you, get that shit out in the open. Just start, the words will come. I noticed an error in my sentencing paperwork.

So I learned how to prepare and submit the legal paperwork required to remedy my situation.