Speaking and teaching in the first person.
A difficult thing to really internalize for volunteers is that prisoners (I use that term correctly here) live in an environment where respect is paramount. I’ve worked with them for 10 years and don’t yet understand what it’s like.
Everyone all of the time is being assessed and slotted into hierarchies. Based on race, term of incarceration, places of incarceration, federal cases, terms of stay in medium & max – who they bunked with, fights they’ve been in, hospital stays. Snitch or not. Their faith, the nature of crimes (lowest is sex crime), body size and shape, fitness, hair and clothing. The way that one walks says much about where they affiliate as does the clothing and the way its worn – right? Even with prison blues. Have you noticed: Who and how they wear watch caps? All of this is being relentlessly tested all-of-the time by body language and, especially, tone of voice. Up one rung, down another.
This constant attitude is where they live and believe me, it’s present in meetings. If you haven’t yet sensed genuine danger… you will.
The least threatening manner, is to be all about my own stuff. I don’t want to be perceived as being in someone’s face.
That being said, once you have a badge, inmates will challenge you and try to manipulate you, officers too — we find our place as servants, the humblest of all.
How do Volunteers win respect? Be there, be fair. Don’t have favorites. Be equally available. Don’t treat anyone more special. Some guys will try to dominate the converstation, use all of the time at break. If I do for one, I do for all of the others. I don’t alow AIC’s the airspace to complain about the facility, the officers, their issues – who’s being confined to bunks and stuff — and why. I try to keep it focused on what I am there for. I have often known fellows leave and do not come back. Don’t want them there anyway.
Coming out to programming does is not a license to misbehave.
On the otherhand, when God truly meets one of these lost ones – you’ll know. It will show in all of the ways that say “no more games.” A different walk, a different talk, hair cut. All of it changes. I can not express in words … so memorable are the nights when my heart warmed to weeping.