Us and Them

Posted: January 26, 2012 by Ed Griffin in Prison, Reform
Tags: , , , , , ,

Us/ThemUs and Them. That’s what really bothers me about prison.

There are many situations of us and them in our lives. The bosses and the workers, the students and the teachers, my car and all the other cars on the road, average guys like us and the rich, the one percent and the ninety-nine percent.

Nowhere is the us and them stronger than in prison. There’s the inmates, men or women, and the guards and staff. When a person applies for a job in prison, he or she is told many rules about “fraternizing” with the convicts. They are warned that all convicts are manipulators (as if we all weren’t).

One woman told of working very well with a young man in a half way house. He called her by her first name and she used his. But he broke his parole conditions and was returned to prison. On her first week on the job, the young man saw her and came up to her, calling out, “Hi XXX.” She hesitated for a moment and then knew she had to freeze him out if she wanted to keep her job. She did and it bothered her ever after.Us  Them

Convicts, too, are told by older convicts to “follow the con code.” No fraternizing with the enemy – the staff and guards. No walking along with them, no chatting about stuff, business only and nothing more.

mike oulton

Mike Oulton

A friend of mine, Mike Oulton, (I wrote a book with him) told of being reprimanded, even threatened by more experienced cons for talking to staff and guards in a pleasant way. Mike thought nothing of saying hi to the warden or asking a guard how his son did on the high school football team. He suffered for this friendliness from both inmate and staff.

How can therapy happen in such an environment? How can there be real learning? It’s an undeclared war zone.

A director of programs in an area prison took a good step forward. She arranged for a university class to be taught in prison, half the students were inmates and half were regular college students. Multiply that by a thousand and we’re getting somewhere.

What is your opinion of the prison us and them?us them

Images courtesy of:

  • mike Oulton
  1. Joy Willmott says:

    I liked what President Obama said in his recent State of the Union address, when he said that our soldiers carry out their mission whether they are Republican or Democrat, gay or straight and he encourged our country to work together. Will that really happen, today, I think not because of the we/they difference. Growing up while getting old allows me to set aside these difference and recognition has come that we are all human beings and one with each other. Prisoners, despite what they have done, are human beings and we are one with them. I see nothing radical about that idea; it is an ancient concept.

  2. Ed Griffin says:

    Thanks, Joy, for your comment. I like how you give some historical perspective to this.
    “I see nothing radical about that idea; it is an ancient concept”

  3. What a great step forward, Ed, for that director of programming to arrange for that university course to be taught in prison. A great way to cut down the Us and Them factor. Do you have any news on whether she was allowed to do more, or was it just a one-off?

  4. Marcella says:

    I’m really liking your blog. Great layout.

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