Prison is a place…

by Zontiell Gordon 
Sing-Sing Worship Group


… where the mind has created the concept of ‘good’ crimes; I wonder what the ‘bad’ crimes are. Harsh experience has made me acknowledge that I’d rather have a ‘smart’ enemy than a ‘dumb’ friend. But friendships here are shallow anyway, so what’s the difference?


…where your sentence is like a job—both have retirement, both conclude in your closing years. But I’ve never met anyone who wanted to do a ‘good’ sentence and then die here. A black man’s life span averages 65 years, the age of retirement.


…where a high percentage place more emphasis on how to get new sneakers than how to get a new trial. I understand, because here you lose respect for the law; you see it raw and twisted, disrespected and ignored and blown out of proportion to fit the needs of the ideals of who enforce it.


…where years pass and you do not feel a human touch; where a kind word could be missed for months; it’s a place where we learn to be smarter than the parole board because we know which men will walk ‘straight’ and which will not. We’re wrong sometimes, so are they, but neither admit it.


…where you understand that nobody needs you because the world outside moves on without you. It’s a place where you get false teeth, glasses, and then stronger glasses; where you feel aches and pains you thought you were too young to experience. Where you find your hair disappearing or turning gray in surprising places.


…where you write letters and cannot think of anything to say; where you gradually write fewer letters, and finally stop writing altogether. It’s a place where you hear about friends’ children graduating from school, but you didn’t know they had children.


…where you wait for a promised visit, and, when it doesn’t come, you worry about an accident. When you find out the reason they didn’t come, you’re glad because it was not serious, and disappointed that such a little thing could keep them from seeing you.


…where you see men you don’t admire and wonder if you’re like them. It’s a place where you strive to stay civilized, but lose ground. Where, if you’re married, you watch your marriage die. You understand that absence does not make the heart grow fonder; you stop blaming your wife for wanting to live with a real man, instead of a fading memory of one. It’s a place you go to bed before you’re tired. Where, when you’re not cold, you pull the blanket over your head. It’s a place where you escape by reading, playing cards, or by going insane.


…where you’ll swear you’ll live a better life when you leave, but forget to do what’s needed to assure that. It’s a place where ‘goodbye’ isn’t as painful as it seems, because most of the time, it’s for the best. Where life becomes easier when you learn to accept an apology that will never come. Unfortunately, it’s a place where some people want to be, and fortunately, it’s a place where one day, you’ll be freed.


Zontiell is an AVP facilitator and a student in Mercy College. He has regularly attended Quaker meetings for three years.