Courtesy of Brad Simpson

The one thing nobody knows about prison is that it can be fun. SAY WHAT?? I know you weren’t expecting that, but it’s true. Now I don’t mean fun like a day at the water park, but more like an adults-only obstacle course type fun. If that makes any sense. Let me see if I can help you visualize what I mean.

Jobs in prison are sometimes hard to get. Education isn’t a priority but it’s also hard to get into any meaningful courses. So most of us are left to fill our own days. There is outdoor “recreation” and it varies, depending on the prison, but my favorite outdoor activities include weightlifting and walking/running the track. Some guys play handball, softball, or basketball.

Others aren’t the physical type and they are probably gambling on something. In prison we gamble on everything. It gives us something exciting to lose ourselves in for a while and that is the point. See, if you spend all day staring at the fences, cops, bars, dogs, and brick prison buildings you’d become either defeated, bitter or crazy. Defeat makes guys give up, bitterness and anger make them extra violent.

So we amuse ourselves. If you don’t already know it, mindless amusement is fun and I suggest everyone tries it sometime. Maybe you don’t go to prison to try it though, I don’t recommend that for anyone. As long as you don’t get involved in the darker activities, where people are intent on increasing their criminal skills, prison can be more like a long-term summer camp.

Now I know what you’re saying: What The Fuck! Prison isn’t supposed to be fun or amusing. I agree but the Dept. of Corrections (D.O.C.) would argue that an amused and somewhat happy inmate is easier to manage than a bored and probably angry/violent criminal. So while they won’t volunteer this bit of information, entertainment is still encouraged quietly. This is a serious trap though. If you spend several years in a lazy semi-happy state with a lot of extra leisure time, you don’t fear the prospect of coming back. This keeps the inmates in a rut and D.O.C. gets more and more money with which they find ever more creative ways to spend while never fixing the underlying problems with our system.

Instead, the prison staff thinks like this: human cattle = profits by the head count. So they do their best to encourage the “lock ’em up and throw away the key” mentality.

Some of us use this extra time to improve ourselves for whenever we’re finally released. Others have resigned themselves to the idea that this is their life, so they embrace it. These guys use all their free time to cultivate their criminal skills and techniques. Whether they realize it or not, they are helping to encourage the same old patterns. They encourage the status quo. So nothing ever changes, and nobody cares.

Speaking on behalf of inmates who are trying to leave prison better than they entered, I believe the solution is more educational programs. Not the crap that passes for school now, but real schooling. A new way of life requires a new way of thinking as well as new knowledge. Create more jobs for inmates, but not the same half-assed crap that passes for work now. Serious work, that gives inmates real world work experience. Jobs they can actually use to get hired once they are released. I’d give serious tax breaks to companies who put hiring and training ex-felons as a first priority. We have proven we are willing to take shortcuts to get what we want, so if you make it harder for me to do the right thing versus the wrong thing, most of us will take the wrong path. So positive reinforcement can’t hurt.

If we adopted the stance that prison is for rehabilitation, rather than the caging of animals, things may change. Look at the prison systems in some European countries. I saw a show on TV about Norwegian prisons, where inmates are treated like people and cells look more like college dorm rooms. Prisoners are educated and retrained during their stay. When I saw this, I thought to myself, Man, I want to do my time there. I might have a chance at a normal future in a program like that. And the best part is the recidivism rates are extremely low.

That is a future I could buy into and wouldn’t mind working for. Until then, send us back out stupid, lazy, and desensitized to consequences. You will get exactly what you’ve always gotten: more stupid crimes and senseless violence. I will gladly trade the card games and TVs and all day leisure time for a solid career training program and some higher education. Sadly, playing cards are cheaper than schooling and building more cages is getting cheaper and easier all the time.

That is one thing nobody knows about prison.

If you’d like to contact this prisoner directly, please write to:

Brad Simpson #1194102

Red Onion SP

PO Box 1900 (D-6-30)

Pound, VA 24279