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I started doing time on January 11, 2001. I was just 23 years old when I arrived at my first prison facility in Maryland.

My first prison job was as a laundryman in 2002 at Maryland Correctional Institution - Jessup. They automatically gave everyone a job whether you wanted one or not. Prior to that, I had held a few jobs while living at home, but those hadn’t lasted long enough for me to truly experience what it was like to be a part of the workforce.

In the beginning, I was so focused on achieving my dream of becoming a singer, rapper, and screenwriter that it took a lot for me to learn that I was in prison and that I had to work. I didn't know how I was going to handle being a laundryman. The problem for me wasn’t washing clothes. Rather, I had already realized that I didn’t work well in situations with lots of people, especially those I hadn’t gotten to know.

However, with the new responsibility of washing 87 men’s clothes, I began meeting more people, having conversations, and forming connections with the other guys. I eventually became more comfortable interacting with people than I had ever been in my life.

I even gained some real friends.

Working as a laundryman helped me develop a work ethic. From the conversations I had, I also started to learn about the other programs that would help me spend my time wisely, balance my life, and better myself. This job allowed me to appreciate the honest money I received without breaking the law. It also helped me to see how hard I had to work to get paid. I could picture the innocent people I had robbed and imagine how I might feel if I myself were robbed of my hard-earned money.

My prison job experience also supported me in becoming a much better writer. If I hadn’t met any challenges in life, maybe I wouldn’t have felt the need to be so creative in my writings. I believe that experiences can help shape peoples’ creativity and bring out the best hidden potential in each person. Being a laundryman was my best prison job because it strengthened the areas in my life where I truly lacked.

In the end, working this job as a laundryman turned me into a much more responsible and mature man. Without the lessons I learned from this job, I could have continued in a broken cycle and created a hole so deep that there would be no chance for me to come out of it.

Through this job, God turned fear into courage and helped me achieve the better parts of who he created me to be. Although I was only paid $23 to $27 each month from this job, I valued it as if it were $230.

More importantly though, I finally found out how it feels to be proud of something good I’ve done with my life.

Disclaimer: The views in this article are those of the author. Global Forum Online has verified the writer’s identity and basic facts such as the names of institutions mentioned.

Quincy Jones is a writer incarcerated in Virginia.