What contributes to inmates being lonely? Do fellow inmates tend to not make good companions? | Write a Prisoner

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What contributes to inmates being lonely? Do fellow inmates tend to not make good companions?

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Atemwende
Atemwende's picture
What contributes to inmates being lonely? Do fellow inmates tend to not make good companions?

I know this sounds like a silly question (I admit ignorance), but I got to wondering about this because even a good many of the ones outside of solitary and among general population (surrounded by other inmates) express this sentiment. I'm sure a good many of our own penpals have expressed the same. And that's the thing, my main penpal is very outgoing, very charismatic and self-assured and espouses a love of communication, and I know with his personality he has surely made several friends that side of the wall, so it puzzles me a little. The nature of loneliness is simply as it is, of course, we all understand that, but do inmates tend to not socialize well amongst themselves/one another?

What have your penpals said about it? 

 

I understand the being away from familiar faces, but, too, some of them have been in for so long, they've long grown adapted to the environment and undesirable circumstances.

Been_on_the_inside
Been_on_the_inside's picture

It’s a trust thing also what you say to other inmates can be used your alway on guard there is a trick in prison when your talking to someone you keep moving you walk up and down so you can see who’s coming also it stops people listening, it’s hard to sit and talk to anyone, don’t think that you can’t bulid friendships cause you can your just move careful. Prison is very much about having to safeguard yourself. When I was in one prison on your first day you sit in a room and get given information such as how to avoid staying away from gangs, how to do your own time not someone else’s, how to avoid being raped, keeping you paper work out of reach etc, so it’s  hard to build trust. You have to becare what you say about yourself,family and other inmates. 

Cleo95
Cleo95's picture

@Been

Hey, so since you’ve been on the inside, do you think there’s a difference between inmates who seek pen pals versus those that don’t? Not to detract from this topic, I was just curious! 

@Atemwende 

one of my pen pals has said that he just cannot build any type of deep frienship because no matter what, there’s never going to be that deeper level of trust. He’s too afraid that things may be used against him in case anything were to happen. He says there’s just too much fear in there. That was just his experience. I haven’t asked my other pen pals, but I think I might! 

annemariehhh
annemariehhh's picture

@Atemwende...Mitch has been quite lucky so far. Knock on wood. With his podmates, they've been able to gel. But I'd guess the loneliness would come from not knowing who you can really trust there, and in other cases being bullied would be a thing too. Mitch has often said every person serves "different " time which means no one inmate has all the answers.

ST4s
ST4s's picture

+1 on the trust thing, and +more if you include my buds on the inside. It’s unanimous. They've all described prison as trust-free zone, because someone can turn information against them on a dime. In one of the first replies I ever received, way back when, one of my then pen pals, now a friend for life, was wondering out loud on paper if I was a federal investigator, masquerading as a pen pal. Of course, over time, we moved past that (it kind of cracked me up though), and built an extremely strong level of trust and a brotherly bond that's difficult to put into words. The thing that really choked me up was when he called me the best friend he's ever had - that he never really knew friendship like that before, that it really was a possibility in life. His original post on here started out, “Lonely. Looking for a friend.”

You come on here thinking maybe you’ll make a difference for someone, but what they don’t tell you is the life you change might just be your own.

Cleo95
Cleo95's picture

@ST4s

Wow, that’s incredible that you guys both found that frienship and trust in each other. Both you and your pal sound like amazing people. How heartbreaking to think that some people never get to experience true friendship though :(

Been_on_the_inside
Been_on_the_inside's picture

@cleo I think everyone at some point need and want to be connected to someone on the outside, I think if someone is doing time totally on their own that would drive them to want to seek out penpals more then maybe someone who’s family is looking out for them. But as for who they are as people there isn’t a lot of different things. This site and other penpal sites cost money if your lucky a friend or family will do it but if your doing it alone on prison wages that could take months to save for. Some prisoners just don’t have any value for human life in any form at all that’s just how they probably were always. You can get stupid long sentence for really stupid things and most inmates are just people that need normal. 

FrankieBones
FrankieBones's picture

In one of the first letters I wrote to a guy called Curtis, he said to me something along the lines of building trust, and that everyone in his life has let him down in one way or another, so if you write to him then you have to build some kind of a bond. Most inmates develop some kind of a bond with their penpals if they're genuine people. Some of those are stronger than others. I got too close to a lady on here and a lot of things happened, some of them are completely unintended. 

From an outsider looking in, I think in a lot of ways, some of these people haven't known that many people that they can know love or trust. On the one hand I'm dealing with someone's dad who is a "retired" outlaw motorcyclist who has been in jail on and off for most of his life and someone whose mother used drugs habitually. You work that one out for yourself. I'm not going to go any further into family details because its nobodies business, it only serves to illustrate the point.

If you show the type of decency, love (plutonic or otherwise), and compassion that a human being is capable of and the decency the vast majority of us as humans are capable of then you will get that same feeling back in return. It's the whole thing of "you get out of life what you put into it"  and when you start taking back control while removing the victim card, while accepting your life is what you make of it, rather than your life being the result of what has happened to you, you will begin to see the result of the type of relationship you can build in human decency together and perhaps show someone a type of love they've never had before.

Been_on_the_inside
Been_on_the_inside's picture

There is a lot against you making friends in prison it’s not just other inmates it’s guards and the prison it’s self. The guards watch who you talk to and make it into something it’s not, your planing something, forming a gang, etc they pull and roll you to another part of the prison if your too close, it’s easier for them if they stop anything forming quickly you know that so you just don’t do it.  

annemariehhh
annemariehhh's picture

@ Frankie..very true.
Profound

ST4s
ST4s's picture

@Cleo, this threw me for the biggest loop in the world. Nothing like this was ever expected. And @Frankie and @Been, spot on. You are philosophers.

Here's some context: My friend was sexually abused as a child, turned to self-medication, heroin eventually, which devolved to homelessness, crime, and prison. I didn't know jack about any of these things at the time, well, not from first-hand accounts anyway. I was just the non-judgmental ear on the other side of the envelope, getting crushed by the weight of all this and summoning all the peace, light, and normal I could fire back. Not that I'm Captain Fabulous or anything, I'm not, but I do think empathy (not sympathy, which is different) is an essential ingredient to folks who take this writing to prisoners thing seriously, and read and take in the mission statement on the home page here. It’s powerful stuff. I just reread it the other day.

Back to topic though, friendship without any strings attached (as a non-existent commodity in prison): my bestie lived his whole life not knowing this even out on the streets, before he went in. Friendship for him was transactional, e.g. you make friends with Sam because Sam can get you high and help you forget about life’s problems for a while. Heartbreaking for sure. But in our letter exchanges, we affected each other in very deep ways. I had no idea. I wasn’t prepared for this. Learning curve times infinity.

Now my friend is out and doing amazing. He got himself a job where respect and ‘attaboys come in like a flood. No more needles either. He’s too busy living. Was this because of me? Was I some kind of catalyst? Reminding him that he matters, and is loved, respected, and has even more mountains to conquer and claim as his own? He may say so, but A) I'm not the one to toot my own horn like that, and B) for me, it’s like having front row seats to a life’s redemption. Seriously, seriously, seriously powerful stuff. Beyond all that though, maybe even selfishly, I never had a brother before. Maybe deep down I was looking for that. Who's to say? But guess what? Now I do. Now I know what it’s like. Folks, it is so fucking awesome!!! And now I have so much pride I just had to get on the keyboard and blurt it out to y'all.

Go be a friend, and watch it come back and blow your mind!

Atemwende
Atemwende's picture

Gracious, I would never have considered any of this. Thank you, all, for weighing in. It genuinely has given me so much more to think about with regard to the role I'm playing in my own correspondences.

annemariehhh
annemariehhh's picture

Its worth it Atem...just keep things on the level and hopefully the PP will respond the same , and have a feeling of trusting someone at last

Nenn
Nenn's picture

My friend has talked about the prison mentality being everyone takes care of oneself. You can meet great people and become somewhat friends but you can't count on anyone inside. Also the inmate transfers make it difficult to form lasting friendships. You might want to refraim from getting attached when you know either you or this other person might be transferred to another prison anytime. 

FrankieBones
FrankieBones's picture

@ST4s: It's not entirely impossible that you may well have played a part that changed their entire life outcome. I mean, its amazing, but then you can never know 100% until they get back out on the street. The rate of recidivism without any help is as much as 83% within 10 years without any outside help or assistance so here's to you for making a difference in a persons life.

annemariehhh
annemariehhh's picture

Most definately...if you treat inmates lime animals..they'll behave like them...when you have nothing left to lose then there's no reason for good behavior is there? But if they are rewarded by visits..mail..calls then the incentive to behave is there..no one wants LOP. We all need hope

Northernyank
Northernyank's picture

My husband has said this often, you have to be careful who you're seen talking to. If he's talking to one person & they're a member of a group, then the prison investigator "labels" him as being a member. He's told me that everyone is always watching, and looking for signs of weakness. He told me about this time he was working out in a rec cage, all the other rec cages were full, so they all decided to workout. They were doing burpees (he did 300), he didn't want to do 300, he was exhausted & tired, but he couldn't stop. Had he stopped like any normal person because they were tired, someone would have taken that as a sign of weakness. People in prison have to wear a mask to hide their real emotions. 

Before he got transferred he shredded all of my jpay pics & letters, not to mention his address book, because CO's will play games. Things will be given to other inmates, etc. Inmates can never be open with other inmates. 

annemariehhh
annemariehhh's picture

Right...then another inmayes gets told to write someone elses girl which of course comes to light real fast and you got a situation, Mitch said years back he witnessed that and the COs were taking bets on the fight outcome, but he and some others managed to convince the guy not to react as it was an organised headfuck. Horrible