Players on Stage

Posted: August 20, 2012 by Ed Griffin in Prison, Reform
Tags: , , , , , , ,

This week I’m happy to present another blog by our Fraser Valley inmate.

jailA note on this man. He was one of the very first winners of the money from my bursary and he plans to use the money for environmental studies. The funds will go directly to the university of his choice. However, for him it will only be a start. $250 is only a beginning to university studies. (This is a plug to see more donations to this bursary which the John Howard Society administers — ). Education is the proven way out of crime.

In his letter to me this inmate told me some sad news. Sometimes the judge sends a man to prison for some charges, while other charges are still pending. This inmate just received news that seven years has been added to his sentence. I don’t know his crime, but I’ve been thinking about those seven years. Seven years of what?

  • Seven years of a dynamic program to deal with his crime? No. Just a few cookie-cutter programs to take.
  • Seven years of advanced education so that he can make a living when he gets out? No. He’s already got a high school diploma, that’s all the system pays for.
  • Seven years of apprenticeship in a trade. No.
  • Seven years of mentored individual study leading to a degree? No. The system does not pay for any post secondary education.
  • Seven years of boredom, seven years of being warehoused, seven years more of crime yesschool, seven years of wearing a mask, as described below — YES


Players on Stage

It was Shakespeare who said, “All the world’s a stage, and all the men and women merely players: they have their exits and their entrances, and one man in his stagelife plays many parts.”

The prison system is its own little world where the words of Shakespeare ring true every day.

Our prison system is a stage where a tragic comedy plays out on a daily basis. Both sides of the equation playing their parts according to scripts that have been written over time with little, and I mean very little, room for improvisation.

Among inmates there is the expectation that one will live by the ‘inmate code,’ however ridiculous it may be at times. For instance, even if I know that an inmate is in the wrong about something involving staff or administration, the expectation is that I take his side no matter how wrong he may be. This does, of course, lead to support for some pretty paranoid and paranoidsuspicious views that to any rational person would be bordering on mental disorder. This is the game we play because too many of us don’t want to hear the truth or accept that “the man” many sometimes have a point.

On the other side there are the same types of behaviour playing out. Among guards there is an expectation of unity, lest they show weakness in front of the inmate population. It is not very often you will see a guard contradict or go against what another guard has done even if they are in the wrong. POs (parole officers) rarely will go out and say that something that a previous PO has done regarding an inmate’s file is wrong. They merely pretend that no mistakes have been made, and that the

outside box

Think outside the box, end up inside one.

system is infallible. The system doesn’t encourage original thought, and eventually it grinds down idealists and original thinkers under the weight of apathy.

It’s sad that we have to play the game like this with too many of us having to become players on this scripted stage that leaves little room for creativity or original thought. We all wear our masks and play the roles that we believe are expected of us and go through the motions every day. It’s time to play a different role; it’s time to change the script.

Images courtesy of:

  1. Joanne says:

    Nicely written! And oh too true! Both sides seem to be entrenched and there is very little room for forward movement. Nevertheless, because both sides are composed of human beings, it is possible for two individuals to meet in the middle. This does happen, as long as no one else is watching. Every now and then an apology from one side or the other does surface and, when it does, it encourages further efforts. One such incident took place for me this past weekend and it was VERY refreshing! We need to reinforce those people who are willing to take the risk to be real as a means of forestalling, if not preventing, their particular group from sucking them back into the fold.

    Thanks again for the very thoughtful piece.

  2. Ed, when I worked as a volunteer for mental health in the northern rivers, I once asked the head of that department why there was so little money to do anything to improve the lives of people after they’d been released into the community. She was an exceptional person and instead of answering me with the usual goverment gobbledegook, she said, ‘The money for developmentally disabled is strong because their lobby is strong; it consists for the most part, of parents and carers, most of whom are perfectly ok mentally. The lobby for the mentally ill is weak; there are very few people to speak for them.
    Governments, whether we like to acknowledge it or not, are run by lobbies. Often thery are put into power/kept in power by lobbies. And there are even less lobbyists for convicted criminals than there are for the mentally ill. In brief, the money’s not there to do the things that might make a difference.

  3. Catana says:

    Prisons are a mirror held up to society. But it’s a selective distorting mirror, taking the very worst attributes of our actions as social beings and blowing them up into a way of life that guarantees nothing but suffering.

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