The I’m at the Jackson Correctional Institution (JCI), a facility in the Wisconsin Prison System (WPS). If the title of this blog offends you, I apologize. Please read on and the reason for the title will become clear.
I am getting towards the end of my chemotherapy treatments. As my exposure to these chemicals increases over time, my ability to bounce back decreases. I’m spending more time along as the nausea can be all consuming even with the medications. So when a window opens where I’m feeling halfway human, I take full advantage of the situation. Such was the way I was feeling when Todd Peterson knocked on my cell door and asked me to join them for a volleyball game during our rec time. Todd is, shall we say, an interesting case. He arrived on our unit a couple of days after I did having been released from the hold for performing a sex act on another inmate. By his own admission he has been convicted of multiple counts of sexual assault, some on children. He claims to have been sexually abused repeatedly as a child and to suffer from gender identity disorder. I know this sounds like a horrible person but the sad fact is the majority of the inmates here are incarcerated for some type of sexual offense. These are people I’ve had to learn to accept for who they are, despite the alarm bells my background generates. It’s a kind of therapy for me in and of itself having to deal daily with those who have abused children. My choices are to be consumed by hate all the time or accept them as people apart from what they did. It’s not like I can just leave. Anyway, when rec time came, I went outside to the volleyball court which was made of sand. They picked sides and I then found out what they called the teams. One side called themselves the “homos”, the other side called themselves the “chomos”. For those of you that don’t know, what a “chomo” is a slang term for a child molester. It was clear that most everyone found these terms humorous, as they bantered back and forth with each other and those not playing over which side they identified with. And they weren’t denying they were a homo or a chomo but rather that they were proud that they were so identified. For many (not all), it was clearly in jest. As far as I was concerned, I was so appalled I nearly walked away from the game right there and then. But the thought occurred to me that, hey, this was likely one of the few opportunities I’d have for physical activity before I’d get sick again. I need, I want to take advantage of this. As often I have found, values and morals get turned inside out in prison, one of the main battles I as a person must fight is to hold onto who I am. What I believe in, in spite of what is happening around me. In addition, I am no better or worse than anyone here. Even those who are predators have a sickness just like me. But most of all, in spite of what is happening around me, I must do what I need to do for me, even though I don’t like or even hate what is going on around me. And that’s a lesson I can keep for life as well.