» Gandhi. Socrates. Voltaire. Apostle Peter. MLK Jr. Liu Xiaobo (« 2010 recipient of Nobel Peace Prize). Dostoevsky. Solzhenitsyn. Joseph. Apostle Paul. His traveling partner Silas. Thomas Paine. Nelson Mandela (.. before being elected President of South Africa), Hanani the Prophet, John the Baptist ..
.. Jesus of Nazareth himself. What similarities, pray tell, do these men share in common?
While you're pondering that, permit me to mention that I was released from JAIL earlier this morning.
Very early. About 1:30. (You were likely sound asleep .. in la-la land. Snug as a bug.)
Yes, it was dark out & chilly .. with cop cars racing this way & the other. Cuz it's not a very nice part of town.
Unfortunately I didnt have enough money for a taxi and the busses dont start running until 4:30.
I used that time to jot down notes regarding the experience (.. in my Moleskine, of course) .. tho they're rather sloppy, given the hour. Barely legible in some places.
So I've been awake since midnight. That's when they woke me to begin my out-processing. "Roll up!" (.. your bedding).
So really, I've been awake since yesterday morning .. when I woke in a JAIL CELL for the first time in my life .. (.. you havent lived 'til you've woken up in a jail-cell. Let me tell you.)
.. sleeping on the lower bunk/rack, beneath perhaps one of the Greatest Snorers in all of human history. (I wadded up sheets of toilet paper and shoved a plug deep into each ear.)
So I'm tired. Very. And a little space-y. Everything seems a bit surreal. Dream-like. Cuz less than twelve hours ago I was literally in another world.
And two cups of coffee after no sleep for a few days will definitely spread you thin. (Experience with shift-work here helps you hold it together.)
Yes, I need sleep, but first there are a few thoughts I'd like to capture while they're still fresh in my mind ..
.. before my memory has a chance to fade. "I can sleep when I'm dead," (.. as the Dog likes to say.)
I've been thinking about this topic since the middle of the night. Seems to be writing itself (in my head).
» Fear is Normal
Yes, I was scared. Everybody is scared the first time they go to jail. It's a normal, healthy response. Especially when they put on "the bracelets."
Let's call it » fear-of-the-UNKNOWN (.. "and that's the way I wanna keep it," a friend replied) where you enter a potentially hostile environment .. a place where violent types are brought ..
.. and where people have been killed for seeming trifles and understandable misunderstandings ..
.. given the close-quarter mixing of people from diverse cultural, racial & socioeconomic backgrounds.
When people get scared, they sometimes act tough. You know » false bravado. Bad idea .. especially in jail. Best to chill.
Remaining Sensitive to the Experience
Despite my fear of the UNKNOWN however, I consciously sought to TAKE IN as much of the experience as possible .. which means, of course, that I needed to remain » sensitive.
[ This inner-openness amid outer-ugliness, surprisingly, required less courage than I anticipated it would. ]
Go with it. Dont fight it. Become one with the jail. Enjoy the experience (.. as best you can). Learn from it.
It's not every day that somebody like me gets a chance to go to jail.
I mean, it's not like you can say, "Here's my thousand dollars. I'd like to spend a few days in your jail, please ..
.. to experience first-hand, what it's like to be incarcerated as an inmate." Doesnt work that way.
[ Could be wrong, and hope I am, but I doubt most judges (who sentence people to jail & prison) and legislators (who write the laws that judges use to send people there) have ever seen the inside of one. I'd bet money I'm right. ]
Rather it's a selective process (.. tho entrance standards seem to be deteriorating). At the root of which you find the notion of » paying-your-debt-to-society.
But the idea of 'Society' varies .. certainly among cultures, but even person-to-person. And who I am to say that my idea of society is better than yours?
So right from the git-go we have this area of competing values. And two of the main contenders here would be representatives from two camps of »
- MORALS (.. led by Dostoyevsky, who wrote the book on Punishment, having experienced the topic first hand, in conditions few would want to repeat) and
- STRENGTH (.. led by Nietzsche, and his Will to Power).
Looks like we might be getting into some tall cotton here. Because just because a person does not have a driving desire to power ..
.. does not mean that he is incapable of exerting power, if necessary. If motivated.
[ Finances would be considered a form of Strength. Besides allowing you to purchase influence with legislators, thereby giving you entrée into the rule-making arena, money also can keep you out of jail, even when you do bad things. Really bad shit.
It's no secret that prisons are populated disproportionately by the poor. In other words, the message seems to be » if you have lots of money, you dont need morals. ]
So whose idea of Society are we going to use? Answer » whoever makes the rules. In other words » legislators .. or people who have made it known that they're not averse to the idea of "earning" a campaign 'contribution'. Cuz "Hey, that's how we roll up in here, dawg."
Should be obvious .. that these rules will be moral only to the degree these people are moral. No?
Pause a moment to reflect & consider the idea, the notion .. of » punishment .. and what should be our CRITERIA for the type of punishment we decide upon.
Somewhere during our reflecting, we will probably come across the notion of this punishment serving as a » deterrent to crime. This should be, along with the notion of paying your debt to society, one of, if not our #1 top priority. No?
One set of questions will revolve around WHAT activities we want to deter (.. murder, theft, reckless driving).
But another consideration involves our » method (.. the best method?) by which we deter crime..
.. and by which this 'debt' (.. to 'Society') should be paid. The method we currently have is » incarceration.
Now, the idea that incarceration is the best method of punishment ... that, my friend, is an ugly but interesting rabbit hole. You know .. right up my alley. =)
So if I was going to "do time" (« interesting phrase) in the Rabbit Hole, I wanted to make the experience count. I introduced myself to, and talked to as many different people as I could. So I learned a lot during my incarceration, and gleaned much INSIGHT in the process.
When they first take you into custody, that's kinda exciting (.. because it's a new experience). And it's cool to meet & chat with the other inmates (.. during the in-processing phase). But after that, it quickly becomes BORING. Mind-numbingly boring.
Jail was always a place 'other' people went. Ya know? Unsavory types.
Not any more. Tho I do not feel unsavory. No. Not in the least. Trippy experience (.. for sure). But a big question mark I've always had .. regarding "how ugly" the inside of a jail is .. has now been filled in.
Could it have been uglier? Sure. But you neednt be incarcerated for life to get ugly.
Fact is .. I been thru plenty of ugliness & torment already. The kind that messes with your head. So it's like I been in training.
Speaking of ugliness & torment ..
» Crime & Punishment
I almost brought along a copy of Dostoevsky's » Crime & Punishment. But that somehow seemed a bit too cute.
So I merely brought along the book he wrote just before Crime & Punishment » Notes from the Underground (.. much thinner, too).
[ I learned however, that they dont let you bring anything into jail with you. Absolutely nothing. Not even your underwear.
If it isnt growing on your body, it gets bagged & tagged, and awaits your release.
Only way to bring stuff in is to » stick it up your butt. (Preferably wrapped in plastic, following an espresso enema.)
Ah, the things you learn in jail. But there was nothing I wanted/needed that badly. Everybody gets an x-ray, so dont put any metal up your butt.
The #1 thing I missed inside was » my READING GLASSES. I signed all kinds of papers I simply could not read.
Who knows what dastardly deeds I might've confessed to while in jail. "Sign here. Here, too. You missed one." All I could see was the red X. Everything else was a blur.
I later got my cell-mate to read to me. There was a fascinating article about how the mind/brain connnection works from a neurological perspective .. in a copy of a National Geographic .. that was left in our suite. Uh, I mean cell.
I must admit, it's kinda weird .. sitting there, on the cold stainless steel throne (.. no liftable seat) ..
.. taking a SMELLY KRAP, in full view of a guy you met only recently (.. and in plain sight of the deputies' command post and their cameras. "Hi there, guys." ) .. while this person (.. "Excuse me. What did you say your name was again?" ..) is reading to you. Literally within reach of your outstretched arm.
Not one of the experiences most Americans are likely to have enjoyed. "Pass the toilet paper, dawg." (He uses the TP as a pillow.) "Sorry to be using up so much of your pillow."
I somehow doubt a pair of 1.25X reading glasses would fit nicely up my butt. Nor do I think a toothbrush (.. which was the #2 thing I missed) would feel very pleasant .. no matter how carefully inserted.
In the article my cell-mate read to me, the main character happened to share the same name as his ex. And every once in a while, after uttering this name, he would pause from his reading and say, "bitch" .. as tho calling out to her. =) ]