- by Brian Glick*
Prison can be a hell of a place to grow old at. Coming into the chain gang at 22 years old felt like being dropped in a bottomless pit without any light at the end of the tunnel. Over 14 years later, it hasn't gotten much better. It is painful for me to discuss the tragic setting in which I live, but sharing the truth about the state of Florida's prison system is a necessary first step to bring any kind of positive change.
The atmosphere is filled with tension and frustration. The people imprisoned here are wounded, broken, and rejected by the rest of society. Hatred and animosity are nurtured in their hearts continuously in direct relation to how they are treated. Those of us who refuse to succumb to such depravity must prepare to have our Faith tested time and again.
When new inmates arrive at a prison "reception center", they are greeted by rough-neck prison guards barking orders and threats interchangeably. They are commanded to strip naked and march in line holding their property in a cardboard box, then wait in line to be "processed" and given a pair of white prison boxers. The entire reception process is designed to be both degrading and humiliating, and to break the spirit of all who enter. It sets the tone for the prison system's divisive "us-against-them" mentality that keeps criminals from ever considering themselves as anything other than outcasts.
Once an inmate arrives at their permanent camp, they are given another round of "orientation", where the guards assert their authority in an extended intimidation session. Usually, one or more inmates will be hauled off to the "box" as examples, so that everyone knows who's the boss. By the time they are allowed to mingle with the other prisoners, they fully understand their roles as inmates. Another fresh batch of undesirables added to the mix.
Prison life then consists of maintaining some semblance of humanity through whatever means present themselves. The system does not offer such a means in itself, so the prisoners must turn elsewhere. For inmates who are not supported by wealthy family members, their only recourse is to resort to some form of illegal conduct. The criminal mind continues to be nurtured in this environment, further impressing upon the inmate his identity as an outlaw.
There are companies that pay for inmate labor, but the state severely limits these contracts to a bare minimum, so most inmates across the state are left without any legal means to support themselves. Making the situation worse, the inmates are not provided deoderant or dental floss unless purchased from the inmate canteen. In event inmates are forced to choose between sacrificing their hygiene, or their rehabilitation.
Why would the state NOT want their inmates to be able to support themselves legally at all institutions, when outside companies are willing to provide the funds to do so? The only logical answer is that inmates who are allowed to live their lives without relying on their criminal minds have a much greater chance of becoming rehabilitated, which is the opposite of what the system was designed to do. Inmates who have the means to provide for themselves legally might actually begin to believe in theirselves again, rather than keeping them broken and dejected.
The vicious cycle of crime and imprisonment is deeply ingrained in Florida's criminal "justice" system, and will remain that way until a whole new way of thinking is instilled upon society as a whole. As long as inmates are continued to be treated as outcasts, they will continue to identify as such. Only when they are treated like people, with a true desire for them to be restored as productive members of society, will rehabilitation become a natural outcome. Until that day comes, prison remains a desolate place for me to spend the years, surviving as a helpless observer to one of today's greatest ongoing tragedies.
* Brian Glick is serving a natural life sentence for 2nd degree murder. He is certified by the Florida Dept. of Corrections as an inmate law clerk, and has been active in prison litigation for over ten years. He can be contacted via e-mail at JPay.com using ID # R45761.