Scared Straight by grief

  
The Belle works in a prison. Yes, this gentle southern belle of yours works with some of my state’s worst criminals (insert sarcasm on the gentle southern belle part). But, it’s true, I walk into one of the oldest, and the original death row for this state, prisons every morning and stay behind its locked gates and within the cinder block walls for 10 1/2 hours. I work in the dental clinic on a medical floor that is open 24/7. I’ve done this now for over 8 years and I’ve seen many things. There are many things I have not seen. 

Fortunately or unfortunately , depending on how you view it, I’ve become desensitized to a lot of things. After the bureaucracy of the department of corrections reared its ugly head and the dog took a bite causing my husband to loose his job after 10 years of service, that desensitization became even worse. Most days I am quite capable of ignoring everything and anything that an inmate may say or do. I often drift to the ER when there is an emergency to see if any of my Grey’s Anatomy skills can be of use, and because I’m curious to see what’s going on. Don’t judge! It’s prison.

Yesterday’s trip over to the ER started off as any other. I could see the “big time” security officers standing around, the ones called in to contain a situation. This usually means something good. So like normal I casually made my way over. But, this wasn’t a normal “cutter”, room mate fight, or just an inmate faking a seizure. It was something that I have not encountered in my 8 years. Then Penelope started to think. What I witnessed would be better than any scared straight program.

You know, the Scared Straight and Beyond Scared Straight that are on AE and similiar shows on other networks.  According to CrimeSolutions.gov here are the practice goals to the Juvenille Awareness Programs (Scared Straight)  

juvenile awareness programs (also referred to as “prison tour” programs or “prison awareness” programs) are deterrence-oriented programs that involve organized visits to adult prison facilities for juvenile delinquents and youth at-risk of becoming delinquent. The most well-known of these programs is Scared Straight. The overall goal of juvenile awareness programs is to deter youth from future criminal behavior

These programs use different methods to obtain these goals such as tours of prison facilities and presentations by current inmates. The inmates often rely on intimidation, fear, and hostility to attempt to scare the youth into living a life free of crime that would land them in prison. Sometimes they are shown pictures of inmates that have been involved in violence. 

I’ve seen that. The result of inmate violence. I’ve seen inmates die from it. I’ve performed CPR on inmates who have overdosed or hung themselves. Should we show the juveniles that? I’ve seen blood smeared down the halls. I’ve seen enough to scare me straight. But what I saw in the ER this time maybe what the scared straight programs need to focus on.

Grief. I heard the sounds as I walked towards the ER. I thought it was the typical sounds of an inmate moaning as he resists whatever it is they are asking him to do. But when I entered the room the moaning clearly turned into wails. The purest of human emotion. Grief. There he was, a 25 year old boy crying from the bottom of his soul “why are you telling me my mama is dead? I want my mama, I want my mama”.

I’m sure some of you are asking/thinking “what about his victim(s)”? True. Very true. First off, I didn’t even ask his name so I didn’t even look up what he was sentenced for.  If he has victim(s) of a violent crime I am in no way diminishing their grief or their right for justice. I’m trying to show another side to prison life that often gets overlooked when these programs are trying to deter youth from a life behind bars.

Heart wrenching , guttural grief, and the words “my mama was the only one there for me and now you say I’ll never see her again? I want my mama, I want my mama” coming from a hardened inmate. May do more than just someone yelling in their faces. 

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