Enemies and allies #2

Posted: September 11, 2008 in prison, general, The Hero's Journey Workshop

It is probably safe to say that generally the prisoners see the prison guards as enemies and the prison guards see the prisoners as enemies. To be allies would make life on the inside impossible. How can a prisoner appreciate those who maintain his imprisonment? How can a guard respect a man he is trained to dehumanize in order to successfully and safely do his job? If they do not describe one another as enemies, I doubt they use the word ally.


I was thinking this morning though of the guard who checks us volunteers in every Wednesday we go to Monroe. How to us he is an ally. He has to be. Even if he wasn’t likeable (which he is) we have to make him our friend. Frustrate the guards and you may suddenly find your program out of the prison. These guys are often working double shifts, not making nearly enough money for the crap they have to put up with on a daily basis and if you can try to imagine the psychological state one must put himself in to work in a correctional institution (really, close your eyes and imagine being surrounded by men you have been trained to believe would kill you if they could). As volunteers we are only one more extraneous thing the guards have to deal with during their already too long and too stressful day.


Guards are gatekeepers to programs such as ours. In terms relatable to work with the hero’s journey, the guards are the threshold guardians, the last one standing between the free world and the world inside prison. When it comes to threshold guardians the hero has to find a way around him in order to continue on with the journey. The way “around” the prison guards?


Play by the rules.

Be on time.

Do whatever you can to make the check in process smooth (i.e. wear clothes with little metal that will get through the metal detector, don’t wear jewelry, wear shoes that are easy to take on and off, only try to bring in what you know you have permission to, etc.).

Say thank you.


One of the tricks to working inside a prison is you have to see everyone as a potential ally – guards and inmates.



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