Creative Commons License

Republish our articles for free, online or in print, under a Creative Commons license.

A collection of old clocks mounted on a brick wall
Photo by Svyatkovsky on Depositphotos

To My Fellow Incarcerated Friends,

We've come through some tough times together, weathered various storms, and now we’re solidly into 2023. This year some of us will finally get to go home, having made parole or maxed out our sentences.

Some of us might now be contemplating whether we’ll stick with New Year’s resolutions, such as exercising or dieting. Perhaps we have signed up for programs to prepare ourselves as we wait for freedom.

There will likely be some upper management corrections staff who will retire this year as a new administration is ushered in. New hires will start their jobs.

Those outside who won local elections held in November are making their way into new positions and roles. Some men and women in positions of power will act in society’s best interests while others will act without heart.

The world will continue to revolve on its axis, moving and changing, rearranging itself through hardships and devastations, joys and celebrations. Imprisoned individuals in for the long haul, however, will continue the same mundane life. This new year will be no different than the last 20, 30, 40 or even 50 years.

Each day will be plagued by the same commands: “Count time.” “Count time, starting on the A-side.” “Mandatory standing count.”

As life no longer has any substance, we go numb. More of us will settle into a mindset of surrender because “it is what it is 'cause they gon' do what they gon' do.” We will go through the motions of being human. We will not hold our breath, waiting for the situation to change.

Still, despite the circumstances for which we were confined, some of us will hold onto a desire to be better today than the yesterday that got us here.

Through the years, we’ve all heard complaints by others, followed by good intentions to do better in the new year.

The secret in doing long time is not only coming to terms with the time we have, but also mature during the time we have been given. After a while, we learn that there are only two things that change: the dates on a calendar and ourselves.

Initially, we might look in the mirror and see the guy we used to be, hard-shelled against the world, living for ourselves and determined not to change.

After bumping our head against the wall for a number of years, a bulb lights up and we begin to see through the dark cloud. Even the hamster gets off the wheel from time to time, and this is where we begin to change, to do what is best to keep our sanity in an insane environment.

Mental health is very important to survive a long term of imprisonment. We see staff come in, get promoted and eventually move on. Inmates we meet along the way leave. Some return. Meanwhile, we know that our day of release is virtually nonexistent. This can take a toll on our mental health if we are not proactive.

We must stay aware of our emotions and reach out to a peer who has gone through what we are feeling. Peer specialists are willing to listen.

What works for me is writing. Others become artists, and some get into music. These are the means by which we focus on things other than the time itself, so we can live life to the best of our ability, even though it might feel like it’s just another new year with nothing new.

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.

Jeffery Shockley is a writer incarcerated in Pennsylvania.