I want to be famous in the way a pulley is famous,/or a buttonhole, not because it did anything spectacular,/ but because it never forgot what it could do. – Naomi Shihab Nye, from the poem “Famous”
We’re often told that there’s so much left to do. We take action, plan, do all day. We have to make time to slow down and think. Sometimes that that is what vacations are for – to open spaces to help us think through what needs doing, saying. It’s the time we leave for ourselves to be for a bit rather than running around taken action constantly. And In the prison, the writers don’t escape the frenetic pace at which we on the outside live our lives.
And if this pace is problematic for each inmate, it’s not just because they live at that pace but because those that control their lives live against the clock. CRCF has programs and volunteer organizations in the prison on a daily basis working to rehabilitate the inmates. But there are real demands on the time of each inmate and each person working at the prison which limits the help each inmate can get.
Growth takes time and the process is slow. Access to resources is a problem and one of the most important resources the writers are low on is time. Time to themselves, time to think, time and space to hook the listening ear of another person whether it’s another inmate or a mental health professional trained to help them. Systems are simplified to save time. These systems struggle to achieve their ends and the inmate struggle within them.
In the writing below, you will hear the story of one inmate who is looking for help in the prison and hasn’t found it where ever she looks.
Are There Angels Hovering Above?
I was called into the lawyer’s room today at 12 noon.
A doctor and an investigator–
they listened to me for almost five hours.
Both women, sent by my lawyer.
I had been in touch with a
group that supports battered women.
It was them that gave my lawyer
these two wonderful women’s names–
so understanding and kind.
I told the doctor she was the
best medical professional
I had seen since my year-plus here.
She laughed but knew I meant the truth.
I guess my self-advocacy would be
to let something be done with the
way we are treated for our meds
and mental health. The doctor asked,
“How are the therapists here?”
It was my turn to laugh
because there is really no one
to fill the shoes of such a person.
Mental anguish, mental breakdowns, crying–
they happen to me a lot.
Their treatment here, it’s simple.
They just put you on fifteen minute checks.
Like that’s going to help.
It’s the truth of what happens here.
We really don’t get any help.
So I try to do what I know best,
pray to my God for strength.