Prison as a Haven/Refuge

Owl's picture

As I was reading both Cyd Berger and Diane Weaver's stories in Doing Life, I was struck by the idea that for some women, prison is more of a haven or a refuge, where they can stop "living for everyone except" themselves and be free of the problems that they must cope with outside of the prison walls: extreme poverty, domestic violence (as in the case of Diane), rape, and homelessness. Both these women found prison to be a place where they could find the time to be "human" and could become "sort of a role model" for others. The notion that prison is a space where one can re-evaluate their role in society has been a common denominator in every stage of the expansion of the prison industrial complex, but understanding how this notion is seen from the perspective of the bodies trapped inside the walls is crucial to understanding what aspects of this space are actually positive. A similar perspective is seen in McConnel's Sing Soft, Sing Loud When the narrator in the story gets agitated with "the tourist" (the newest addition to the prison) because she can't stop complaining, crying, and "moaning" about her life and why she was "jailed". The narrator states: "...no one wants to talk to her in case she falls to pieces...we don't like people failing to pieces around here. It makes everybody do hard time and besides, it triggers a chain reacton, y'know what I mean?"  

Looking at prison as a space in which change can occur for the better, reminds me of a conversation I was having with Uninhibited about capitalism and its effect on society. Uninhibited pointed out that "capitalism makes people think and act in inhumane ways". I can't help but think to what extent we can all benefit from a space that allows to think outside of a capitialistic world. I am, however, unsure as to whether it is possible to think outside of a capitalistic mind set. 

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couldntthinkofanoriginalname's picture

I was also struck by the

I was also struck by the notion of prison being a safe haven but then it made sense--of course, people want a break from the life that brought them to prison. However, I find it incredibly disturbing, and I expressed this in one of my journal entries, that come incarcerated people would consider prison as some sort of niche. Why must someone commit a crime to discover a niche? Explore education? To grow? To know one's self? To just "live a little" like the warden said?

I teared up on Friday when a few of the Cannery women expressed how scared they were about being released from prison into the unknown and abck into their old survival habits. The idea that the real world, in comparison to the dehumanizing prison environment, is more terrifying shook me to my core. I will never forget when one women said, "...we all have one more crime left in us..." Although this one statement is SO loaded and can mean SO many things, I can't help but think that for some of them this "one more crime" is their escape--their ticket back to their niche in hell...or perhaps, from hell (?)

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