Today has been a very long day.  It started with someone in my prison’s housing unit — the F-North housing unit at FCI Petersburg — yelling about pedophiles hogging the TRULINCS computers (the people to which this comment was made were most certainly not hogging anything), continued with scoffs at a transgender prisoner in the chow hall at lunch (someone I welcomed to sit at my table since I was so fed up with uneducated idiots trying to harass the transgender folks because they’re different), and progressed to yet another idiot in my housing unit getting all pissy about the spot where he places his chair to watch TV (a new guy in my housing unit who thinks he can run over others, a misconception which will land him in hot water sooner or later, hopefully not at my hands).  Suffice it to say, it’s been a day, and not one to remember.

While I’m a supporter of prisoners and their rights, some prisoners are easier to support and like than others.  Just like the world outside of prison, people in prisons also act in an abrasive manner.  After all, stratification is an ongoing matter, irrespective of if in prison or not.  People try to put others down to afford themselves some type of status.  Why they do this, as opposed to earning status through their own good works, I will never know.  But this is the way it is.  Perhaps I should say that this is sadly the way that it is.

I for one am fed up with this culture of hate and fear.  I am tired of incarcerated brother attacking incarcerated brother because of the color of their skin, their religion, their charges, or whom they associate with.  So what if a prisoner is white, black, blue, or green!  So what if they are in for bank robbery, child pornography, or counterfeit postage stamps!  So what if they are rich, poor, smart, or stupid!  Merely being different should not be a reason for aggression or antagonism.  Perpetuating hate because of personal differences just shows how unenlightened and closed-minded we truly are; two attributes I most certainly don’t want associated with me.

I find fault with the strong for attacking the weak.  I find fault with the gangbangers for attacking those independent of the gang system.  And I find fault with the cunning for attacking the deficient and challenged.

I find fault with the weak for attacking the weaker (perpetuating the cycle, anyone?).  I find fault with the social lepers for attacking the mentally challenged or disabled (the lepers should know how it feels to be discriminated against, empathy anyone?).  And I find fault with every single evil person who attacks my pigeons.  Seriously!  There is no earthly reason to attack an animal, regardless of whether the person is a big strong coke dealer or a deviant, crippled sex offender.  It matters not to me what race, religion, or creed a person identifies with.  If they attack lesser animals or beings, they are the one at fault and they should be judged accordingly.

But I get ahead of myself, for it is not my place to judge.  It is my place to be and to try to affect meaningful change through and for those around me.  The only answer here is for all of us — America’s incarcerated class — to pull together and agree to be good brothers to one another.  We are our brother’s keeper.  And we are our brother’s supporters.  Sometimes our brother’s only supporter.  The same applies to the thousands of women behind bars, too, an ever-growing number of mothers, daughters, and sisters.  The concept seems so simple to me, yet so foreign to many in prison.

The next time you write, call, email, or visit with an incarcerated friend or loved one, as them what they’ve done today to support their fellow incarcerated brother.  Ask them if they’ve turned the other cheek, helped someone in need, or dissuaded an associate from engaging in abusive or abrasive conduct.  Sadly, it doesn’t look like change is going to come from within on this one.  It will have to come from outside.  So, support healthy and kind behavior in prison.  Raise the issue.  Don’t co-sign the destructive status quo.  As the Buddha once observed, “Hatred never ceases through hatred; hatred ceases through love alone.”

About Christopher Zoukis, MBA

Christopher Zoukis, MBA, is the Managing Director of the Zoukis Consulting Group, a federal prison consultancy that assists attorneys, federal criminal defendants, and federal prisoners with prison preparation, in-prison matters, and reentry. His books include Directory of Federal Prisons (Middle Street Publishing, 2020), Federal Prison Handbook (Middle Street Publishing, 2017), Prison Education Guide (PLN Publishing, 2016), and College for Convicts: The Case for Higher Education in American Prisons (McFarland & Company, 2014).

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