Posts Tagged ‘institutionalized’

One day at a book club meeting in prison, Alex looked around at everyone in the room. Five outsiders and seven inmates crowded the tiny room. “I’m not going to make it on the outside,” he said. “I never do.”

I couldn’t believe what I had just heard. Alex was a ‘gentle’ man, a man who helped others, a man who would walk around the track on his hands to avoid a fight.

“You know, guys, I get out and I don’t know what to do. I can never find a good job, so I sleep all day in the halfway house, but they kick me out after three months because I wasn’t bad enough, I guess.”

I wondered if there was a Mrs. Alex and junior Alex people, but I didn’t ask.

“So after awhile, I miss prison and the routine, so I rob some store or other where I don’t hurt people. Since I’m still on parole they send me back here at least for six months or so.”

The inmates in the group tried to help him. They told him which halfway house would really help him and which ones were like outlet stores for the drug trade. One guy suggested a hobby, another said move to different area, a third gave him the name of contractor who hired ex-cons as laborers.

Institutionalization happening right in front of me. This prison system is sick, I thought.instituzionalied

What is the answer?

In the early fall, I will be marrying the man I love.  He is a long-timer incarcerated in an Alberta prison.

Let’s play a couple of rounds of Would You Rather, shall we?  The first dilemma is one I am constantly faced with.  The second is one that I pose to all of you.

  1. 1.      Would you rather stay in a relationship founded on love with a man
  • who worships you
  • treats you like gold, and
  • encourages your most important endeavours, but
  • cannot live with you for up to 15 more years, because that is how long he has to go on a sentence he has already served 20 years on

OR would you rather walk away from this relationship and

  • focus on doing all the things in life that you want to do
  • be accepted by the mainstream
  • forget about having to hide a part of your life from people you fear may not understand, but

know all the while that he

  • is in there alone,
  • feeling increasingly hopeless, and
  • unable to do the things you are doing?


  1. 2.      Would you rather have the correctional service gradually reintegrate a middle aged man back into the community
  • who has served 20 years of his sentence,
  • has not been involved in any criminal behaviour for 10 years,
  • has gained a tremendous amount of insight into his past behaviour,
  • has developed a solid plan to avoid falling into the same patterns that led to his violent behaviour in the past,
  • has a significant number of supports in the community who are willing to help emotionally, financially, and practically, and
  • is motivated to live his life in a way that gives back to society a small amount of what he has taken

OR would you rather this man be held in prison for another 15 years to serve out his entire sentence after which he will

  • be thoroughly institutionalized
  • be approaching retirement age and have few employment prospects,
  • be left to fend for himself with possibly little remaining community support and few resources
  • likely have a great deal of resentment toward the system that kept him in all this time?

Talk about dilemmas!  Anyone wish to venture a response?