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“Ever find it hard to break free?”

Photo drawn by Cami Neimann

I have never gone to jail, but I have been around people who have gone. And there is this institutionalized inability sometimes for them to coop in the dominant society because they have been locked away for so long. They tend to ask permission to go to the bathroom, they’re subordinates to everyone around them, and there is this slight paranoia when people unfamiliar to them are around. Because when you’re in prison you have to learn to survive under duress. You have people trying to physically harm you, you’re stuck in a tightly packed confine, and the food is horrific. So matriculating from prison to the outside world is tough.

But that’s people who went to jail, yet not everyone is like that. A lot of them receive their diplomas or even college degrees in jail. So how is that they are more productive being locked up in prison than free on the outside. Well, that’s because depending on the person, freedom is subjective. Not everyone walking outside feels free, and not everyone in prison feels trapped. Prison can be a very mental construct. A construct which brings people in the correctional institutions to be begin with. So how does a person, or better yet how can you spot a prison trapped person? One of the ways you can tell is by the person’s lack of realization of their own potential.

When people go to jail they can focus on college unlike on the outside because it forces to you to evaluate yourself. You can’t leave the confines of this small space, so you have time to reflect and figure out what you can be in life. And hopefully, if you’re going to be free one day into general population you can reach your potential. It’s hard to get to that point when in society because all you see is what’s in front of you. As well as you look at your situation relative to everyone else around you. For example, in society you can see people prospering while you struggle. And it appears to you, there is no upside for yourself so you feel trapped. But when in prison, you’re locked out from that outside world. So you can’t see them living it up as you struggle. You can focus on your situation more without comparing yourself to someone above you.

Another way to spot prison minds is by how people having a lack of curiosity for new experiences based on their own ignorant views from limited knowledge. For example, my older sister introduced me to sushi; and I never would have tried it otherwise. Because to me, people are crazy for eating raw fish. My lack of getting to know something as simple as a food dish, was helping to shape a view of a group of people I had never met. Or me not wanting to ever travel to Germany because of the Nazi history from 70 plus years ago. Not putting yourself in the know is a prison minded person. Here I am afraid of Germany because of a Nazi past, yet my racial experience in America made me content with being here with no problem.

Other prison minded ways of thinking is being content with not advancing. Thinking that this is what I was born as, and there is no upside. Living in New York City, you would be surprised by how many people have never been to Times Square from New York. They’re so locked in mentally, that they don’t even realize it’s a $3.00 train ride, or even a walk away. This can be very prevalent in the economics of an environment as well. Where people growing up poor think of even a middle class lifestyle as far-fetched. Because when you’re poor you live for today and think about tomorrow when tomorrow come. Middle class people think about next week today, and upper class people are anticipating the next couple of months.

So in the end, just because you are not in prison does not mean, your mind is not locked up. As a matter of fact it’s worse to be locked up mentally than to be locked up in a correctional facility. At least in prison cells, everyone around you is in the same predicament. Outside in society you see the world passing you by. Sad thing is, some people will spend their entire lives trapped. Not realizing their full potential or self worth.

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