I’ve thought about this question for a while now and even spoken to some other inmates about it. I think it’s interesting that I’ve learned to live with people in here with little or no regard for what their offenses were. I feel like on the outside, such information about a neighbor would be vital – you would WANT to know. Here, it’s universally recognized that ignorance is better.
I think there are inmates who’ve done and continue to be capable of doing terrible things; they should be punished. Is this particular type of punishment GOOD for them? I don’t know. But I think the world is probably a little safer with some of these people off the streets. I also believe that there are many people in this place who were over-prosecuted or simply made a bad choice at the wrong time. The difference between these two types of inmates is that the former laments getting caught, the latter laments their action. Prison is probably a good place for the former; I don’t know if it’s a great place for the latter.
For the over-prosecuted/bad decision-makers, I don’t know if prison does them any GOOD. Does it punish them more than they could punish themselves? Does it help them … help them with what? Help them by assuring them they’ve paid the price for the crime they’re convicted of? It’s hard to say. Then again, they’re convicted, as I am, of doing something against the law. Is prison supposed to be good/reformative for the inmate, or is the inmate’s incarceration supposed to be good for their victims/society? I can understand how people would think the threat of prison and the example imprisoned offenders set for others can be good for a well-ordered society. But I think that balance should constantly be re-evaluated. Is it? I don’t know.
I’ve noticed that often inmates distinguish between “good guys” and “nice guys.” The “good guys” have questionable convictions, or it is understood that they made a bad choice that doesn’t belie the type of person they really are. The “nice guys” are friendly and might help you out in any way they can, but they have a serious disorder.
There are also some people in here who recognize that they have, or had, a problem. They’re open about the crimes they’ve committed, sometimes too open because most people don’t want to hear about other inmates’ crimes.
Some people here should be separated from society – prison is probably good for these guys. They form their own community here, they’re taken care of. Some of these inmates are the “nice guys” who just haven’t been able to overcome their disorders. But this group also includes people with anger/control issues, people who manipulate others, who bully smaller, vulnerable inmates, who antagonize others for their own entertainment. These are the people who make me feel uncomfortable – I can only imagine how the guards, particularly the female guards who are often the subject of their attention, feel.