NOT Being Okay In Prison: John Dukes Speaks His Truth And The Truth Of Many People Behind Bars
Everyday for the past two years, John and I have written letters back and forth between us to keep the lines of communication open and the bond of love strong in our marriage. All of our communication is monitored so, at times, that can hinder us from being truly free to express ourselves. When John writes me, however, those corresondences are not checked. In these letters, he shares a lot of what is on his heart and mind, as well as the knowledge he's gained through dialoguing with others along his journey of incarceration. The insights he imparts are profound, and always mange to activate a deeper-level of introspection into the many facets of being in prison, especially for an extended period of time. This post is an excerpt from a recent letter from John (June 5, 2017) where he passionately and painfully opens up about the myth that after a while, one becomes "okay" with living behind the wall.
Dear Vy [one of John's nicknames for me],
Family and so-called friends always act like I'm alright in prison. Just imagine being away from your family...not being able to eat properly (e.g. - years of eating processed foods and junk food, etc.)...poor sleeping conditions (lousy, thin mattress, gates slamming), loud talking from other prisoners and correction officers - not to mention keeping out of physical danger (fighting peers/staff) or any other issue that can jeopardize my life and my freedom.
My point -- I'M NOT ALRIGHT! Now, take those issues and times them limited physical interaction with my wife. Honestly speaking -- my family/friends treat me like I'm safe in prison. I hear people say: "He has three meals and a cot" or "prison saved him."
The reality is -- that's so far from the truth, but I guess it allows them (family/friends) to sleep at night. Support is underrated. Being in prison stagnates our growth; therefore, we (prisoners) need all the support we can possibly receive.
Ironically, the people that are absent or unavailable to be in our (prisoners') lives, speak about us, send messages to us [via the few who do check for us, if that even exists], and some even plan to chill with us when we come home.
Having said that, just think about the invisible support you give your loved ones in prison. Think about the missed opportunities to help them while they recover. I'm in prison because of actions upon sick thoughts. That's what led me here. My thinking and education was poor causing my ability to reason to suffer. Nevertheless, I worked on myself and highlighted my faults. Still, that doesn't mean I'm alright.
My family/friends think I'm alright because they have memories of me. Furthermore, they have expectations and envision us magically doing well when we come come, but that's not enough for a person behind bars. You know for a fact that I'm coming home? You know I'm not going to die in here? You know how well I'm going to be/do in life? You don't know any of these things to be true, yet you declare my "alrightness" with certainty. Profess your love in real time, not some uncertain forecast that you're hoping for. We don't know the future. Love me now.
If you have a loved one in prison, visit them -- write them -- support the wife (in my case) that checks on them. The women that support men in prison need the support of that man's family and friends. I've witnessed this first-hand with you, Vivett. You're always here making sure I'm alright, but you don't always get the support you need from the people I think should be giving it to you. I will never understand people who say they love you, but you never see it in their actions.
Once upon a time, I mentioned to my friends, "I understand that you're busy and I'm too far to visit, but you can check my daughter and my mother. If you can't check me (yet you say you care for me) please encourage my team that does support me. Take them out or invite them to functions so they don't feel alone. My wife doesn't want to hang out with other men like that, but she doesn't need to feel alone either. Understand me -- she's doing a bid with your man! Family -- at least make your presence known! Take some of the burden off her and the children. My daughter is without her father physically there. My children with my marriage are also missing out on my love, as is my wife."
Please don't miss an opportunity to help out your loved one in prison. Remember this: "We're not alright in prison, but you could really help us become greater while going through this hardship."