PRISON OFFICER TO AN INMATE: A Reminder
Prisoner, this is your first day in this facility. Forget time, forget freedom, forget life outside, forget emotion and most of all, and forget everything. Also, bear this in mind. You were never invited here at all. You simply appeared before us because that is what our justice system wants. Both of us therefore do not wish to be with each other but that is fate.
First of, there is only one requirement here to survive. We expect everyone to be humble. Ignore it and you are a goner. Ignore it and life would be miserable. Ignore it and you will never be sane for the rest of the time you are expected to serve here. Deception is the order of the day but never, never allow yourself to conduct your routine in our presence using it as medium. Remember that deception is not an attribute of humility. You will perish if you do just that. Be true to yourself and if in the course of your detention you must have to deceive, deceive yourself first and from there stop deceiving. There is wisdom in said action. You will be able to resist the irrational nature of communal life and in the process; you would gain entry into a period of creativity.
You have plenty of rights. It is not true that there is no such thing as human rights for prisoners. It is gibberish a thought. Not because the fountain head of human rights—freedom— has been stripped off from your being, you lose all human rights. That is pure myth. Lights, potable water, faith, education and work are human rights in the prison community. You can determine a right from privilege. A right is something significant, something that could not be taken away, even if freedom has been removed. A privilege on the other hand is something granted and can easily be taken away. Prison life is a dynamic interaction of rights and privileges. You have it and it is there always. It is however up to you to sustain it for your purpose. It simply means that you adhere to prison rules.
I tell you what. Prison is not a place where offenders are to be punished. The criminal justice system imposed incarceration to offenders, separating them from the free community for a period depending on the offense, as a matter of penalty. That is the punishment. The segregation is the punishment in itself. Ignore the thought that commencement of punishment begins in prison and that my role is to pound you continuously as punishment. I am here to oversee your welfare even if society has shunned you already. I am one part of society though that believes in the goodness of man. As a matter of fact, government pays me to make such concern a career. Cooperate therefore. Let your goodness reflect through every activity you are given to perform with humility on top of everything. I tell you, incarceration is not that unfortunate at all.
Of course, there are drawbacks in communal life. You will be forced to live and share everything with all your fellow inmates—stories, life stories including communal odor. The scent of communal life is overwhelming but it is something you can live by. There are occasional threats to your sanity, like loneliness and enforced discipline, as in regular headcount, food distribution and even in evening taps but you can adjust to it. Remember that prison life is also akin to living in the free community. Every segment in your waking time is an occasion for intrigue and blasphemy. What differentiates your community with the one you left behind however is the fact that you are within a social system which is the exact inverse of the free community. What makes you smile outside, it will make you sad inside. Try to think of your loved ones and you will get my point. Everything therefore that matters outside is pure fleeting moments that are useless inside. Acquaint yourself to it for a period of time. It will help you find your humanity intact.
Prison is a make or break affair for you. You adjust and you are fine. You find difficulty in adjusting, you are broken. It is as simple as that. The barb wires around your facility are not exactly a sight to behold if you are trying to make something of yourself. I understand your predicament. But I am always there to cushion your life. Make me a friend and an elder brother and things would turn out right. Treat me as your foe then you will never achieve peace of mind. We will only be forced to accept our relationship in terms of violence. Remember that we are constantly living in a world where violence is understood as a common language. Let’s change it.
Tomorrow will be any other day. Everything from hereon will always be familiar. The same routine, grinding slowly and almost customary. It tames the wild and exploits the tamed. It is circular and cyclical. Life revolves in a seemingly endless schedule. It is out rightly monotonous and boring. Learn to read or read during your spare time. Do something worthy like writing or praying. Rehabilitation only means a state where one gains respect through humility. Be respectful of others and be understanding and you will lessen the dullness of your surroundings. That way, it will sharpen your mind and make you stronger as you reach the end of your prison term.
You need it once you leave the facility and begin to exercise love. Meanwhile, while serving time, forget love. Everything in prison is about rules.
By: Venancio J. Tesoro
Davao Penal Colony
Davao del Norte, Mindanao