Just when you think there is some sort of understanding on how prison life works or impacts those we are writing to, something else happens to make me at least, take a step back and take some time out to consider how their lives are so far removed from ours. The reality often is almost like reading a fiction novel. When in actual fact it is stone cold, blunt truth.
One of my ppl's is in a Fed facility. The lockdown procedures have been pretty heavy in terms of the covid, riots and god knows what else they deem necessary to keep inmates locked up 23hrs a day for weeks on end. But the most recent one, which meant no emails or phone calls for over a week, was because there was 3 executions within as many days!
Now I am fully aware that many of the guys locked up are hardened to such things, after all many have backgrounds of murder, death and violence, and I'm thinking there must be a certain line of thinking whereby they feel safe because they themselves aren't on death row.
When I finally had a phone chat the response was, 'Well some of them deserve to die'. No compassion, no sympathy, just an unemotional throwaway comment.
It just brought it home with a resounding thud that the man I find easy to talk to, share moments of hilarity and interesting stuff to talk about, is also the same person who was once affiliated to the most notorious gang in CA. And therefore, his take on such matters should not be at all surprising. After the phone call had finished I just sat trying to fathom how I would have felt if only 1, much less 3 people who I knew, either in passing or more directly had been executed. It's a situation too difficult to comprehend really, because our backgrounds are actually worlds apart from those we choose to communicate with. Never more so than this particular conversation. The biggest surprise to myself was my own lack of reaction listening to those words. But I guess the distance just forges detachment and to some degree disbelief. Just like reading the fiction novel...caught in a moment, then moving on within our own realtime world.
So, do we ever really understand prison life and all it's complexities and highly charged day to day enviroment? Do we really know our chosen penpals as much as we think we do? And just how stoic are they dealing with such things on a regular basis? I can only assume it becomes a numbing process, whereby shutting it out is the way to deal with such things.
Certainly made me view many things somewhat differently.