FUNNY THINGS INMATES HAVE SAID. Pt. 1

Inmate to other inmate: “What’s the highest mountain you’ve climbed?” Other Inmate: “Compton.”

RT (Recreation Therapist): “If you could be one age forever what age would it be and why?”
Inmate: “In the womb”
RT: “Why??
Inmate: “Cuz when my momma pushed me out I looked around and was like OH SHIT, put me back in”

RT talking about facts about sleep: “Lack of sleep throughout life increases risk of heart attacks”
Inmate:  *completely serious with flabbergasted face* “OH SHIT… I’m finna die.”

Inmate: “When I was born my momma was mad at my dad for impregantin’ 3 other woman so she put my name as Boy on my birth certificate”

RT to group: “What advice would you give to a teenager”
Inmates go around saying good thoughtful advice until…
Inmate: “Excuse my language, but uhh I would say.. F*$K B!^&$#S.”

I’ve never seen an inmate this excited.

Have you ever seen one of those videos where parents record their Kids excitement when they tell them they’re going to Disneyland? Here’s an example if you haven’t: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Q4S2EkSt3VI

Well imagine getting one of those reactions from an ex gang bangin stone cold killer convict. I did, and the experience was priceless.

We were in the “Hole” (you can check out my previous posts to find out more on what that is, but basically groups are ran with the inmates in cages).

This particular inmate is very knowledgable and loves to learn through research so we spent a group one day researching the net worth of certain celebrities and drug-lords. We got on the subject of a certain ex drug-lord who now is a pastor at a church.

He wanted to look up the church the man was pastoring at so we did, and I clicked on one the first things that popped up, which was the google maps picture. Now, if you’re not familiar with google maps, it allows you to view the building as if you are standing on the street (street view) and you can maneuver around the street as if you were driving on it by clicking around. It’s pretty cool because you get a 360 degree view and kind of makes you feel like you’re actually there looking at it.

Once that came up, he asked what street that was on and I told him… then he got excited. REALLY excited.

“THAT’S MY STREET! THAT’S MY STREET! THAT’S WHERE I GREW UP! I CAN PROVE IT TO YOU! LET ME PROVE IT! MOVE IT DOWN THAT WAY!”

He yelled jumping up and down in his cage with the the BIGGEST smile I’ve ever seen in a prison.

I followed his directions and he ended up bringing us to an intersection that was right by his house. On the street corner you could see the street sign for the cross section. The streets were 14th and Wood.

“THAT’S IT! THAT’S IT! THAT’S MY TATTOO, LOOK! LOOK!”

He then rolls up his arm sleeve and low and behold, right at the top of his arm in big bold tattoo ink letters there was a big 14th with the word WOOD underneath.

“SEE I TOLD YOU! I TOLD YOU THAT’S WHERE I GREW UP!”

Again, talking with the biggest smile on his face. I think it had been about a few decades since he’s been home. That’s why it was so special to him, because in a way it brought him home.

It’s moments like those it’s easy to forget who I’m working with. A lot of these guys have a side to them that are still little children, because they have never had someone in their life to raise that part of them. I love it when I see that side. It reminds me that no matter how convicted someone can be, they still have some part of them that’s innocent, and that’s the part of them I like to focus on , and hopefully grow.

Oh that’s why he was so bloody…

Working at a prison you mostly hear about the excitement going on around you: the fights, the stabbings, the inmate drama, the illegal staff and inmate relationships, and so on. But on some occasions you get to witness it.

I was walking the yard one day checking in inmates for group when all of a sudden we hear over the loud speakers, “YARD DOWN.” When that command is called all the inmates on the yard are to sit down where they are at, and staff are free to walk around.

The yard usually goes down when there’s a medical emergency, a fight, a car needs to drive through, or any other misc. reason. This time is was for a fight.

“LOOK LOOK LOOK!” My coworker tells me pointing in the distance to the other side of the fence, where another yard is at.

I look over and see two guys GOING AT IT. One guy then grabs onto the other guy and is not letting go. Since it was from a distance I couldn’t make out the details to well. I’d say they were about half a high school football field away from me, but from where I was standing it kind of just looked like two guys hugging each other really really hard.

They aren’t letting go of each other and are latched on with a FIRM grip, even with three Custody Officers trying to pull them in opposite directions they just wouldn’t budge. After a few moments of that, it got to a point where I see an officer whip out his big bottled pepper spray gun and spray them.

Finally they each let go of each other and fall to the ground. I notice that one of the guys had blood all over his white shirt. That is WAY to much blood for something that was just a fight, so my Coworker and I start contemplating why it was so bloody, and decide it was probably because it was actually a stabbing.

We exit the yard and wait outside the gates until the Yard time is finished. Around us the Custody Officers were talking about the fight and listening over their radio for more information about what had happened. One of them walks up to us and we ask, “So what happened?”

Come to find out, the reason they were latched onto each other so well was because one of the guys was biting the other guys ear and ended up BITING HIS WHOLE EAR OFF! The guy had pulled a Mike Tyson!

NO WONDER HE WAS SO BLOODY!

He wanted to DIE so he LIT his cell on FIRE.

The other day I had a casual conversation in the “Hole,” which is kind of like the jail within the prison. Groups here are structured a little differently because the guys are in locked cages while we run the group. That greatly limits activities we can do, so a lot of the time I just resort to discussion.

I overheard the guys say something about a fire in someone’s cell and jumped in on their conversation… “Someone’s cell caught on fire?” I asked. “No no, HE lit his cell on fire,” an inmate responded pointing at the guy in the cage next to him. I turned to him, “YOU set your cell on fire? Why?” then the conversation went something like this:

IP (inmate patient): Yea, that’s why I’m back here. I was tryin to commit suicide. So I took some White Lightnin…. you know what white lightning is?

Me: No, what is it?

IP: It’s vodka we make out of the pruno

SIDENOTE: Pruno is wine they make by letting the fruit they get ferment… yes, the inmates have a way to make their own wine)

IP: So I took the White Lightnin and poured it all over me and all over the bed. And then I lit the sheets on fire, and then BAM everything was just on fire and I was coughin cuz of smoke, that shit BURNED

SIDENOTE: They also have their own ways of making lighters in the cell, I’m telling you, these guys have a way to make a lot of things…

Me: Oh wow, are you okay? How are your burns?

IP: The cops came fast enough, so it was only my leg and face and it’s not bad at all. Like no blisters or nothin

Me: Well thank God for that, can I ask why you wanted to commit suicide? You don’t have to answer if you don’t feel comfortable..

IP: I was on the wrong meds and I just had lost my sister and her son in a robbery, so I was gone, not in the right mindset. And I just decided I wanted to die, so I lit my cell on fire.

To the normal person, this conversation may seem very out of the ordinary and maybe even dark… but in this world… this is just a normal day to day conversation. I mean literally after this conversation one of the inmates told us of how someone once made him mad so he slit his neck.

My heart breaks everyday for these guys. Some, because for what they did they don’t deserve all that has come to them, and for others at just how far gone they are from humanity. This is a broken world we live in. I only hope I can spread some light in this dark place.

The gospel gives me so much hope though. I’ve seen how it has completely changed some of their lives, and has caused them to be completely new creations (2 Corinthians 5:17). That is why I want to be here, and share the good news!

I made an Inmate cry

Today I had to cover a clinician group, which are groups ran by psychologists usually and not Recreation Therapists, but with people out for the holidays they had to tag me in.

I can usually tell what kind of group it is going to be within the first 5-10 minutes or so. It usually depends on the dynamic/relationship of the guys, and what mood they’re in. This day 5 of them showed and 10 minutes into group I could tell this would be a group I can dive a little deeper with.

They seemed comfortable with each other and were all patient with one of the inmates who liked to burst out with random health facts. Like no joke, I asked what their new year’s resolutions were and as one Inmate was pouring out about how he wants to improve his relationships around him, the other inmate bursted out loudly with…

“Did you know apples are healthy? They’re skin has (some word I don’t know) and it’s really good for you.”

It went on like that for most of the group but they all played along, it was fun to watch actually.

We got more into the conversation about New Year’s Resolutions and began to expand more on the relationships topic. As we did, I began to ask for song requests since we were getting towards the end of the group and I like to give them a chance to listen to their favorite songs if there is time.

The song I Remember by Lauren Hill was requested. The song began to play and since we were talking about relationships he mentioned that his first wife proposed to him with this song a long time ago. I was intrigued because you don’t hear of women proposing to men very often so I asked him how she did it…

The way he told it was a little choppy but this is what I was able to gather: they had known each other since high school and were actually dating other people. He had a girlfriend and she was dating some guy but they were still good friends and talked a lot (and maybe more…). She ended up breaking it off with that guy and I guess asked him to come over one day. And then they had a conversation that went something like this..

Woman: “You the only one I can see fit for raisin’ my child”

Inmate: “You pregnant??”

Woman: “What No! I’m just sayin. You’re the only one WORTHY enough of impregnatin me, because you the only one I know that can teach my kid about the bible and about God.”

Inmate: “You mean you wanna have sex with me.”

Woman: “Not outside the confines a marriage.. here let me just say how I feel through this…”

*Woman plays and sings I remember by Lauren Hill, and asks him to marry her*

As he told that part of the story, tears started streaming down his face, and he had to stop talking…  he slowly  gathered himself and shared how that marriage lasted for 9 years.

After the group he walked out of the room shaking his head in what looked like disbelief. He stopped in front of me, looked me in the eye, and said “Man.. I haven’t shed a tear in over four years,” then continued to walk out.

It was a touching moment, and it’s not very often I can say…. I MADE AN INMATE CRY

I get around.

I wanted to expand more on what I do and what my job incorporates. I am considered a “Float” here, meaning I go around to all the yards based on their need for group coverage. Hence the title of this post, I GET AROUND… literally.

Recreational Therapists (RT’s) here only run groups, no one on ones, and usually have 3-4 groups a day. Most RT’s have their own assigned groups, but some of us have been designated to only cover groups, so we have no groups assigned to our name.

This is could be a good thing or bad thing depending on your personality, but for someone like me who likes variety and adventure, it is perfect.

What’s a Prison Yard? It is a sectioned off area of the prison that has about 5 building units of cells where the inmates are living, surrounding a big yard complete with your weight piles, handball courts, basketball courts, and dirt field; and is usually about the size of a high school football field.

One of the yards I go to, I only go to for one of the buildings which is considered Administrative Segregation… or in prison slang “The Hole.” It’s basically the prison within the prison, so guys will get sent here from their original yard for various reasons, but it’s usually because they got in trouble.

The other yards are A Yard, C Yard, and E Yard. Each yard is a different level of security and each yard has their own personality, which is where the fun variety for me comes in. As a very brief description:

A Yard- This is your chill/creeper yard. The vibe is pretty chill, but dang there are quite a few creepers.

C Yard- Is the CRAZY yard. From stabbings to fights to transgender clicks… there is always something going on.

E Yard- Prisney Land. This is the level 2 yard, and these guys LOVE to program. So they have Playwrite groups, music groups, animal therapy, school, yoga, pretty much anything you can think of.

ASU (The hole)- Real world. There are guys from every yard here, and are there as either punishment, safety concerns, overflow, or transition. When we run groups they are in cages and we facilitate from outside, so the feel is pretty different, but you usually get to see the more real side of the guys (good and bad).

Well there ya have it, I get around. That was a very surface description of the yards and what I do, but I hope it gave you a better idea of my day to day.

The “why” behind the blog.

If you ever want to see just how broken this world is, go to prison. That’s what I did, and it has sobered me up to the reality of the human condition HARD.

Why am I in prison? Well I’m actually only here 40 hours a week… 

you guessed it. It is my day job.

Here, I am a “Certified Therapeutic Recreational Therapist.” If you have not heard of that profession before (which is usually the case), it is defined by Webster Dictionary as:

Therapy based on engagement on recreational activities (as sports or music) especially to enhance the functioning, independence, and well-being of individuals affected with a disabling condition.

So what does that mean for me in a prison setting?

Well some people might view it as:

She does art and play volley ball with murders, thieves, rapists, drug dealers, and child molesters.

However, though the previous statement is technically true, as a therapist at heart I would have to correct them and say:

No, I do art and play volley ball with people who have made bad choices but who are not defined by their bad choices.

Needless to say, I hang out with these guys a lot in what feels like an informal setting since most of what we do consists of leisure activities; and you would be surprised at how comfortable they get. Put on some good music, play some cards, get talking, and they will end up pouring out their life story or what they did to get into prison detail by detail….

It’s honestly better than any Netflix show.

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I am a bit different from my co-workers. A lot of my co-workers are here for the job security and heavy pay check, but I am here with a greater purpose in mind. You see, I am what society labels as a “Christian.” I believe in and have a relationship with God, and through that was led here to love on the people who need it most. Of course you don’t need to be christian to read this blog, but I want you to understand the perspective I am coming from. However, with my faith comes navigating making sense of a good God in a broken world.

A world that favors certain races over others.

A world that lets the justice system get away with unfair sentences.

A world that puts innocent people in prison.

A world that only gives a second chance if you’re willing to pay for it.

A world where people are so broken, not even the life of another person has meaning to them.

I could go on and on with that list, but all this to say that the “WHY” of the blog is this:

This world has a very dark side that the average person is not exposed to. So I want to expose it to you via blog. I want to share the stories, the lessons, the insights, what God is doing, the good, the bad, the ugly, and whatever I need to process since writing is a form of therapy for me.

I hope you enjoy it, and would appreciate feedback, comments, or questions (:

God Bless.