What Is Truth?

Posted: May 3, 2010 in Uncategorized

I returned from my chemotherapy treatment to Jackson Correctional Institution (JCI), a facility in the Wisconsin Prison System (WPS).  The 72-96 hours after treatment aren’t fun and I spend a lot of time in my cell.  The doctor and nurse practitioner actually made a trip to visit me in my cell from the Health Services Unit (HSU) which surprised me and certainly set tongues wagging here about how sick I really might be.  I have to hand it to the JCI HSU they really have given me excellent care.  Not everyone here as you might expect share that sentiment which I’m sure I’ll talk about at some point.  Anyway, I still come out of my cell for meals, morning medication and to talk to people.  Even if miserable I don’t want to be alone all the time.

I’m happy to report my funds came from Dodge Correctional Institution (DCI).  Those orders I created with Freddy will now get turned in and I should have my own TV, radio and clothing that’s not state property to wear for the first time in almost a year. That makes me smile of course.  I think it represents the ability to make choices and have some control in my life that I haven’t had in a long time.  At a more basic level, I’m a news junky and the majority here like sitcoms on the public TV’s and they don’t blast National Public Radio from the speakers in their cells.  I assume the reason for the difference is that I’m older than many of the inmates.  Two things I’ve learned I will never have in prison that I do miss are privacy and silence.  I didn’t realize how much I’d miss either until they were gone.  I also ordered a set of headphones which I’ll bet will come in handy.  Maybe peace can substitute for silence once in awhile. 

Speaking of Freddy, I think its safe to say we have become friends.  I still every once in awhile during the ordering process have to caution myself to not reveal too much.  Something about me is that people, for whatever reason, usually feel comfortable talking to me about themselves, their backgrounds and what’s going on with them.  I don’t know why exactly.  I used to hate it sometimes and its gotten me into trouble but over the years I’ve embraced it.  After I got to prison, this hasn’t changed.  The thing is most inmates lie.  It’s what they do.  It’s part of who they are.  This is just amateur observation but I’ll bet some psychologist somewhere has figured repetitive lying as part of the criminal mind.  The question is what is behind the lie?  Are they trying to hustle me?  Have they told the lies for so long that they now genuinely believe it to be the truth?  Or, one I see all the time, the fantasy that they want their world to be, relating to things they’ve seen or done or how great they are, their families are, or life outside of prison will be, that fantasy is the truth to them?  That is why they’ll contradict their own stories, though they swear they didn’t and I just misunderstood, because as their facts and circumstances change in their lives, their fantasy evolves with it?

You might look at such people and figure them morally deficient.  I do not.  I understand it.  I understand it because I’ve one of them.  My failure to accept the truth of what I am instead of what I wanted to be is directly connected to my incarceration.  I understand it because this environment and the reality of what many of us face both here and after prison suffocates hope like a wet blanket suffocates a fire.  Their fantasy of lies becomes truth to the inmate because of that absence of hope.  It’s no wonder we desperately hold onto the delusions and denial, this false hope represents as we believe that’s all we’ve got left.

So, I don’t stop inmates I know are telling me a story that isn’t true.  I’m not a counselor.  I engage the delusion with them much like I would an Alzheimer’s patient who is stuck at another point in time.  The cure of honesty requires a painful treatment process in which the person must be willing to look at their own delusion or denial and challenge their own assumptions.  Those inmates who tell me lies aren’t ready, and they need the hope the delusion represents to survive a little while longer.  As for me, I’m working on it.  Can I accept who I am, what I’ve done, the consequences and the resulting mess my life has become and move on?  I pray for the strength to be as honest with myself and God as I can be every day.  Without it, I don’t have a chance.

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