Believe it or not, I am grateful to be a member of the Minimum Security Unit here at Monroe prison. Of course, I'd rather be with my wife/friends/family celebrating Life yet this little detour seems necessary for me and the man who looks back at me in my shaving mirror. Perhaps celebrating can happen here too!
This quarter I was required to take two therapy type classes. They were Introduction to Depression and PTSD 101. It turns out that learning how to face the events that brought about these mental diagnoses in my life is helping in ways I find difficult to explain. Suffice it to say I have far fewer melancholy days and people can more often come up behind me and touch my shoulder without my insides turning into a block of ice.
I've been promoted to the Therapy Community Boardroom - HOORAY! "So what??" you might ask. In my world I celebrate this development! The Board, also known as the Upper Structure, is comprised of 12 inmates and two staff members. Yup...the patients are running the asylum - hah! You see, Unit A (my location) is designed to teach men how to act, once released. Most of the men have been labeled antisocial their whole lives. We teach pro-social skills. Here they get the time to practice changing their destructive behaviors. It's a microcosm of the world they will enter into and remain part of when they are released. Our recidivism rate is 12% vs. the general population recidivism rate of 50% to 70%!
We operate TC like any organization on the other side of the razor wire. It's a culture with rules, mores, and consequences...both positive and negative - ALL instructive. I am happy to be using my education (got that degree in Organizational Development back in the mid-90's) AND my life experience helping others. It's a good feeling when a man, tattooed head to foot, comes to me and says "hey man, awesome class, thank you."
Did I mention that as a Board Member I get paid a salary? It's true ... $0.42 per hour (count'em ... that's forty-two CENTS!). No doubt the 'thank yous' are more valuable than any money. In addition, I must say I feel proud that I will be able to buy enough coffee to last the whole month...truly small blessings are treasures.
I think I mentioned taking a Creative Writing Class...well, I really like the teacher, enough in fact that I've registered for her next class starting in January. She's going to have the class study and write about Restorative Justice (Google it!). It's an intriguing concept...a kind of blueprint that brings justice to the victims, the community (society) and the offender. Our current system focuses on punishing the offender, which doesn't always bring justice to victims and usually leaves society completely out of the equation. A few states already offer restorative sentencing (not Washington) so I am looking really forward to this class.
I know it might sound counter-intuitive yet I am TRULY grateful to be alive, even here in prison. I haven't been abandoned by all...as one might expect. My friends and children write, send books, put money on my account for supplies AND they visit...perhaps one of the best of gifts! And my wife...the amazing woman behind this man...she does all those things too PLUS she still loves me. Only God knows why, but she does, and for that I am Christmas-morning happy ... and JOY FULL!!
As we roll toward 2016, know that I wish each and every one of you a Merry Christmas/Holiday Season and an Awesome NEW YEAR! The world is no doubt richer and more brilliant because of you and all you love ...