“Prison not only robs you of your freedom, it attempts to take away your identity. Everyone wears the same uniform, eats the same food, follows the same schedule. It is by definition a purely authoritarian state that tolerates no independence or individuality… as a man, one must fight against the prison’s attempt to rob one of these qualities.” – Nelson Mandela, from his autobiography (Long Walk To Freedom)
I’m here; in prison… just another day closer to going home. I’m pretty happy about that to say the least. I spend a lot of time reading in here and the book I just finished was the Nelson Mandela autobiography from which I got the quote above. It was amazing getting inside the head of such an inspiring man. The fellow spent over 27 years in prison and never lost hope or courage. Very inspiring read and I recommend it for everyone.
Being in prison gives a person an overwhelming amount of free time to think about the most pointless and absurd things possible. One of which is calculating a persons time until release. For instance, I jog five miles a day. Because I do this, everyday instead of saying I have two years left… I say it in miles at the end of each mornings run. Like, after this mornings five mile run, I remark to my running mate, who is known by the name “Savage” and my good friend “Touche” that I only have three thousand six hundred miles left to run before I go home. It may seem odd but in all actuality, for myself at least, I find it much easier to digest instead of just always focusing on the actual amount of days. It gives a whole new dimension to the phrase “stay in the moment” and “one day at a time”.
For all of us here, we are constantly trying our best to keep our spirits up. And I know that in the small group of friends I have made we are always doing anything and everything we can to stay positive. There is a phrase that is famous in prison that goes:
“we try to keep on laughing just so we can keep from crying”
We are constantly clowning, joking and messing with each other. One thing is certain, laughter transcends pain. Some days are harder than others, but even the hardest days only have 24 hours. This to shall pass… and luckily it always seems to.
For me, I find myself counting my time with books. If my numbers are correct, I have read about forty thousand pages since I was arrested over a year ago. With that in mind I have come to the conclusion that I only have to read one hundred thousand more pages and then I’ll get to go home. That doesn’t seem too bad. I really enjoy reading and seeing as I already read forty thousand it seems very do-able.
Regardless of the method of keeping track of time, weather it be through miles, books or football seasons, the tracking and passing of time is one of mans worst enemies in prison. I do anything and everything possible to avoid the reality of that all imposing question: “How much time do I have left?”. With every passing day I deal with it all over again. For better or for worse, I’m here. So I may as well make it “for better”. This is exactly what I have been doing and intend to keep doing.
Now with that being said I wanna return to the quote by Nelson Mandela that I began this entry with. The quote rings truer than one can realize without ever having been incarcerated. To begin with; the men and women in charge of guarding the prisoners are consistently disrespectful, dehumanizing and outright deceitful. In order to survive a day in here, one must learn to curb all emotion when dealing with the guards in state prison or the deputies in county jail. One must understand that no matter what one has been charged with. One must remember that there should be professionalism among the staff in order for someone to expect a reflection from the ranks of inmates. To be more to the point… treat someone like an animal and expect them to act like one. Treat someone with respect, then it is fair to ask for respect in return. Being inside for a year I have seen hundreds of cases where justice has failed. Where society has failed and where the prison system and prison guards continue to fail.
We as people (guards & inmates) must learn ways to uplift one another. We are obligated by our duty to our brothers and sisters, sons and daughters to everyday try and create a better world for which to live in and raise our families. We must not look at what other people are faulted for, but instead look at how we can improve ourselves and improve the lives of others (even our enemies). Maybe in doing so, our enemies can become our friends. We must not try and make everyone the same. We must not be afraid to be different or afraid of these people or ideas that are different. We must learn to celebrate our differences and appreciate them. Grow to nurture all the different cultures and ideals, different feelings and philosophies. We must always strive to make each other better instead of tearing each other down. It may not always be easy, but life seldom is. Lets not let challenges deter us. Lets rejoice in the challenge and look forward to the fight. I may be in prison but I for one am not dead. And I refuse to act like what I do or say does not matter. If I am still keeping my head up through my trials and tribulations, then why can’t others do the same? I refuse to let prison break me.
Are you in prison? A prison of a bad relationship or bad job? A prison of your mind, through sadness and insecurities? Maybe the only prison we are every truly in is that of our own creation? What do you think?
Until next time… KEEP ON RICH ROLILN!
I would love to hear your thoughts… feel free to write me:
Daniel Dart Richert #AL2076
C.M.C. West Prison
P.O. Box 8103
San Luis Obispo, CA 93403