Since being released from prison, on August 21st, 2012, I have spoken to a number people about my time in the Federal Prison Camp.

Anyone who has read my blog and has had similar experiences to mine knows that I have tried to be as candid as possible in regards to what happens in the prison camp.  I’m not here to judge one person or another; no matter what their crime was or what their beliefs are.  I also believe that ever prisoner has a duty to make good use of their time while incarcerated.  In my case, I felt as if I had relied on my family long enough.  They didn’t mind helping me, and I will forever be grateful for their emotional and financial support.  I am practical, however, and I recognized that at some point I would need to sustain myself again.  Thinking of my family constantly, I decided that I needed to make the most of my time in prison.  Rather than spending my days mulling over all the bad things that I had done or been subjected to, I decided to look inward and reevaluate the patterns of my life.  I finally acknowledged that I alone was responsible for my troubles and decision.  I accepted that retribution and punishment were part of my choices I made.  Once I was able to come to peace with this I was able to find strength and begin the healing process.  The alternative would have been to cling to negativity and create an environment that in my opinion holds back so many prisoners.

Not knowing what prison life was going to be like; except for those images depicted on television and the movies; I talked to several inmates upon my arrival in hopes of trying to decide the best way to get through my predicament.  My determinations…focus on the future, remember the past, but don’t dwell on it.  I figured that keeping the end in mind would be the only way to keep my sanity and ensure success when released.  Doing this will make sure that your days of confinement are much more productive and easier to get through.

One man I met in Atlanta described himself as a business person who was wrongfully accused of wire fraud and a Ponzi scheme involving tabletop games.  The man constantly went on and on about how he did not deserve to serve a single day in prison, about how he was the “fall guy”, and how he has suffered enough.  Not to mention he was turned on by his own sister (who was also found guilty of the same crime).  He would always bring his paperwork (court documents) and ask anyone willing to read it and tell him he was guilty.  He almost dared anyone to say he was guilty.  I always told him that I was in no position to determine any man’s guilt or innocence, nor is it my responsibility to make a judgment on the justice system in America.  It is what it is; the good, the bad, and the ugly.  Like my new friend, I too, once assumed that a prison term would be a total waste of both time and money.  However, I accepted what was given to me and was determined to make is something that would be beneficial to me in the long run.  That may sound strange to some; however, the truth is the truth.  I left prison emotionally sound, intellectually prepared, and spiritually balanced.  Being emotionally sound has assisted me the most.  Being emotionally sound forced me to step out and speak out about being in prison.  I don’t want to be stuck in the world of would’ve, could’ve, should’ve.  Rather, I accept, own, and take responsibility for that which is my life; still a pretty good one.  I don’t want to run from the fact that I was convicted.  Too many prisoners, most of whom do not embody wickedness and depravity are too drenched in pain and shame to come to terms with their predicament.  The result?  Their 3, 6, 18, 36, or 60 month prison sentence becomes a life sentence.  I promised my family and myself that I would strive to be different. I’m not there yet, but I am doing everything I can to accomplish this.

I was asked what I did best during my time in prison. Simple, I kept to myself, I did what I was asked to do, and I never gave up.  EVER.  I was no different from any other prisoner: I wore the same green uniform and white-tees; I was counted 6 times a day; I waited in line at the same chow hall; I scrubbed the same pots and pans; mopped the same floors; watched the same television, and ran the same track.  But, I never forgot that someday my release would come, and I knew I would be faced with the same struggles millions of Americans deal with daily: employment, mortgage, car, insurance, etc. I had to be ready.

What kind of prisoner will you be?  Whatever you choice never forget that life for felons is harder – it’s supposed to be, as it’s one strike and you’re out.  I promise you that excuses and blaming others for your anguish will get you nowhere.  We only have one life and there is no reason to waste it.  Never forget that even in prison we can create opportunities that can add value to our lives and others.  Good luck, stay strong, and work hard at what you know you can do!

  1. A regular reader says:

    “I knew I would be faced with employment, mortgage, car, insurance, etc.” – Why I have none of these struggles and I live among the very best of the poor. Why not work for yourself, live off the land, use a bicycle, and say to hell with insurance? Much of what you say is great, you have insight and make good sense, and your essays should be read by every American, but I opted out of that race, which I believe is what really supports the prison industrial complex. Am I missing something?

  2. Anonymous says:

    What a great posting. I too believe that offenders must embrace their past before they can move forward. And you high light how much more constrained life is with that criminal record. There is a proportion of the prison population that does want to turn their lives around and we should, as a society, be there to help them. I do wish you well in your future pursuits.

  3. jeriwho says:

    Was there anything offered to you in the way of practical training or further education? Could you take any classes, get any hands-on trades experience, etc? I seem to recall that you were already educated when you went in, but I was wondering if prison offered any of these men real world skills so that they could leave inability-to-be-employed behind them.

    • Bryan says:

      Atlanta did have HVAC and Electrical program that were taught by staff; however, they were not certification classes and only informational only. There really wasn’t any hands-on programs. The only thing that was practical for any inmate was working in the mattress distribution center. There you could learn to use forklifts or other warehouse equipment that could be used for future employment. But that was really it.

      They do have an education department but it is mostly focused on inmates getting their GED. Beyond that not a whole lot of training. There were seminar classes that were offered and taught by other inmates. The classes varied depending on which inmates were available to teach. There were seminar on computers, business, public speaking, and various other topics.

      There really wasn’t a focus on getting people “employable” or “skilled”. Many of those inmates who have been locked up for a while will come out with absolutely no skill to get them employed. Now, Atlanta had a large number of white collar criminals (such as myself) who were educated prior to surrendering. There were also a large number of inmates with drug charges. Many of them were educated as well, but there were many who were either. All of them were very smart in their own right. However, Atlanta FPC did nothing to help them advance to become contributing members of society; at least in my opinion.

  4. jeriwho says:

    On a slightly different note, I don’t knwo how interested you would be in a comedy set in a prison, but in 1974, the BBC ran a comedy called PORRIDGE. (also two Christmas specials and a feature film). It starred the well known comic, Ronnie Barker, and Richard Beckinsale as two inmates at a fictional medium security prison in Cumberland, UK. “Doing porridge” is British slang for serving time in prison. The producers relied on a writer, Jonathan Marshall, an ex-con (British, of course) who wrote a book called, How to Survive in the Nick. He acted as their technical advisor on prison slang, day to day life, and operational rules. The show aired on BBC family time, and so it was interesting that it invented its own profanity, but the actors pulled it off.

    The depiction of prison in the series was noted by several former prisoners as being very accurate. The comedy made each episode about some small issue for one of the main characters and how he would or would not beat the system by the end of the episode. The show was never about more than that, really. But it depicted the despair that the younger inmate kept facing simply by being incarcerated, and how his cell make (played by Barker) would tell him pretty much what you have written here. It also showed how one of the wardens, Mackay, could make life as miserable as he wanted to, by thwarting an inmate over mere trifles, over which the inmate had no control.

    In spite of the dark element, it was a pretty funny comedy, and it told a good story about what prison was like, and the mixed group of men who ended up there. I don’t know if that appeals to you after doing your own “porridge,” but it may spark some creative interest from you. You can certainly write.

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