After being incarcerated for the last seven months, I have learned the truth about what being locked up and the loss of freedom means to a man.
Before all this happened, losing my freedom meant something completely different to me than what it does now. I thought losing my freedom meant not being able to come and go as I wanted, not being able to sleep in when I wanted, stay out late when I wanted and to do what I wanted. I thought it meant not having a corrections officer telling me where to go or not go, and I thought it meant being able to jump in my truck and go float the river or hang out with friends or play music whenever I wanted to.
Well it does mean all of that. And of course I miss those things. But a person gets used to whatever their circumstances are, and they find a way to make a little life out of it. I have my people I hang with here, and I have my routine. I find things to laugh about and things to think about. I watch TV, work out, play dominoes, read and write. I skip breakfast if I want and I buy snacks or other foods in the commissary if I don’t like the meals. So in short, although I am incarcerated I am not stripped of all free will. I still have a voice, and some options.
Here is what I don’t have – being a part of my family and their lives. Here is a short list of what I have missed out on during the past seven months of incarceration:
– My mother’s birthday
– New Year’s
– My birthday
– The death of my grandfather
– The birth of my first niece
The holidays and birthdays are days I hate to have missed but I can deal with those. But, the death of my grandfather and the birth of my niece have caused me to feel deeply how cut off I am from those I love and who love me. The most severe punishment of not being “free” is missing these milestones in life. In not being there to support my grandmother and father when my grandfather passed, I feel I have let them down greatly. I feel my selfishness, which got me here in the first place, is once again to blame for a failure to be the person I should be in life. In not being able to celebrate the birth of my sister’s beautiful new daughter, I feel I have let her and her husband down.
My family has always tried to love me and be there for me, when I needed them, yet I am not there for them now. I pray that when I am released I can make up some of this to the people I love. This is what the REAL punishment of incarceration is. Not being behind a locked gate, not living with a bunch of other incarcerated men in a cage like an animal, but the loss of my freedom to BE THERE.
Freedom isn’t about walking through a door or jumping in a car, it’s about picking up a phone to call your grandmother and talk about fond memories of your grandfather. It’s about sending your sister a bouquet of flowers and sending your niece a stuffed teddy bear. It’s about taking your mother out to eat on her birthday or handing your brother-in-law a Christmas gift.
If you are reading this today while free, take a minute to call the people you love and tell them so. Use your freedom to reach out to someone you care about.