Being incarcerated for the last 30 years, I have lived in the most toxic environment created by man.
The Texas Department of Criminal Justice has a mission statement that reads, in part, “promote positive change in offender behavior, [and] reintegrate offenders into society.”
But when I walk to the chow hall, I hear corrections officers saying things like, “There’s the little princess,” “Once a faggot always a faggot,” “You stupid M— F—” and “You’re all girls.”
This is a men’s prison, but even if we were girls or women identifying as LGBTQ, it is still not a way to speak to us.
In the dayrooms, incarcerated guys call out sexual insults to each other. It’s as if they cannot just sit and watch TV or play dominoes without demeaning each other. I look in vain for intellectual conversation. When I speak to someone, they answer with cuss words interspersed with three-letter words.
I maneuver myself through this prison as if I’m a salmon going up a stream full of sharks. I constantly have to guard my heart and mind.
I seek and look for anyone else going my way. I’m numb after years of this toxic environment. It’s not just in our workplace, it’s in our living place, our cells. We cannot get away from it.
Racism is prevalent too. Anything that is an issue in the free world is compounded in prison. A couple of months ago, a sergeant was fired because there were too many complaints about his racist remarks, not because he said them.
Among the inmates, there has always been a division. Each race sits with its own race. Some correctional officers will look out for the inmates of their race and show favoritism. Racial slurs are the norm between and in each group. There is a color divide among the officers too.
In prison, everything comes down from the top. A lieutenant would not feel comfortable uttering certain words if the sentiment was not handed down from a higher rank. The warden gets promoted out of the same rank and file that is speaking that way. This sentiment is so pervasive in the corrections officers’ unspoken creed that any other sentiment would seem foreign.
Why was I sent to prison again? Punishment? Justice? Rehabilitation? Or is it indoctrination into the same criminal belief system that got me here, reinforced over and over?
But the prison keeps telling you that they are promoting positive change in my behavior.
Disclaimer: The views in this article are those of the author. Prison Journalism Project has verified the writer’s identity and basic facts such as the names of institutions mentioned.