I could go on and on about how prison society is and the many rules broken on a daily basis, not with malicious intent but as a necessity to survive, be comfortable and feel as much normalcy as possible. I’ve been told it’s selfish that I risk phone calls and visits to have an extra piece of chicken or survive in comfort, and I don’t care. It has nothing to do with selfishness and not caring.
I am serving LWOP in prison in a very, very harsh, restrictive and oppressive environment. I take full responsibility for my own actions, and it’s no one else’s fault but my own that I am in prison, regardless of the facts and circumstances of my case. I don’t live in prison, I survive in prison. I must go through the pain, the torture, the dehumanizing, the mistreatment, the restrictions, the oppression, the chaos, the violence, the disrespect, the boredom, the monotony, the loneliness, the confusion, the scariness, the coldness, the darkness, the hopelessness, the loss and the constant unstable unpredictability of prison life. I don’t function in my daily life of ‘prison survival’ not caring about family, friends, loved ones and connections on the outside.
Mail is a right in prison that the prison cannot deny; phone calls and visits are a “privilege” that can be taken away at any time, whether I do something wrong or not! I love being able to call people on the phone, but phone calls in prison are expensive, and not everyone accepts collect calls or sets up phone accounts for us to call them. The times we are able to actually use the phone is not always a convenient time for those on the outside. They are either at work or unavailable to answer the phone. So, for me, I don’t get my hopes up, nor depend on phone calls.
Visits – what person in prison would not love to receive a visit either contact or noncontact? It’s a wonderful thing. Someone actually is thinking of you and wants to see you and spend time with you in person, that is a very wonderful feeling indeed. They drive, fly and subject themselves to searches etc., to spend quality time with you and make the effort to share comfort and a sense of normalcy with you. But not everyone receives a visit. Many people, even your own flesh and blood, do not think of you, do not have time to visit, do not try, do not want to visit or whatever the reason may be. Visits are a luxury many, many, many prisoners do not get or have. It’s just a privilege that is not guaranteed and can be taken away at any time.
Visits and phone calls are great, but I do not expect them. Yes, I may hope, wish and yearn to share in these things, but in our reality, they probably won’t happen, so I don’t survive in my everyday life thinking about a privilege I may or may not get. It doesn’t mean I am selfish or do not care, I just survive this life realistically in the moment from day to day because even tomorrow is “not guaranteed”.
People in the free world live their lives as comfortable as possible and that’s all we do as well. I’m not talking about breaking the rules with malicious intent or doing wrong because we are reckless and do not care. There are so many petty, restrictive and oppressive rules in prison that make our lives harder than they have to be, which is not right at all! I survive LWOP in a manner that is as comfortable as possible, even if it means breaking rules, for it is worth the risk.
Many prisoners do not want to lose privileges nor have to break rules, even the most petty, but it’s a fact of life behind these bars and walls. When I got locked down, I asked someone I was cool with if they could give me a pen, some paper and an envelope so I could write my loved ones and let them know my situation, since IDOC violated their own rules, policies and procedures and did not give me any of my personal property, not even sheets or a blanket to sleep with at night, so I broke the rules. It was a necessity, not selfishness or not caring about what privileges I may lose, but a necessity for me. Maybe people will understand and maybe they won’t, but to truly grasp it, someone must put themselves in our shoes and understand most of it is not with malicious intent nor because we are selfish and do not care. It’s all part of the many different ways that we survive in such an unpredictable dirty, cold, lonely, boring, monotonous, chaotic, restrictive, mean, harsh, inhumane, sad, confusing, dark, bleak, unforgiving and oppressive environment.
I just wanted to give some clarification and understanding on that, especially for those who do not understand or think it’s selfish and carelessness when it’s not. Any questions, comments, etc., post them or you can get at me directly always. Take care.
Gerard G. Schultz Jr. R55165
P.O. Box 99
Pontiac, Illinois 61764