A week off

Posted: September 17, 2008 in prison, general, prisoner writing, teaching

We aren’t going to Monroe tomorrow night. Volunteers can only go into the prison if the program has a sponsor, and for another month our program only has one sponsor, Gloria. So, if Gloria can’t make it, no one can go in. I’m signed up to take the sponsor training in October, which clearly does us no good for tomorrow night. Being a sponsor means you assume responsibility for the program’s volunteers and for the program. It’s not a small responsibility, and when Gloria first asked me I admit to hesitating. Shouldn’t I have to be involved for a year? At least? I was scared to think of running the group by myself. It still scares me a little, to be honest. Prison, for all it’s rules and procedures, never quite loses the feeling of being an intensely unpredictable place. Yet, now that I’ve been involved in the program for several months I know how important it is to the guys and to me that we are there on a regular schedule. I don’t want to miss a Wednesday. I know how important it is to the guys that we don’t miss one either.

In October it will be remedied and I’ll have my badge of sponsorship, which ultimately only means that if something goes wrong I’m the one the prison will hold responsible. No pressure!

Truthfully, it’s hard to miss a night at the prison. It means we aren’t there for a month, and a lot can happen in a month. New guys can come in. Others might be released. Fights. Illnesses. Trials. Divorces. What I like to imagine is that all of the guys in our group have found a quiet place to write and are inspired to bring us as many pages of new work as they possibly can by October 1st. What I know is that it is hard to stay motivated when the deadline is so far away — even for those of us on the outside. What I know is that like the rest of us, men in prison can have stressful weeks, weeks that get away from them. Life can pile up. Letters from family can cause distraction. A new cellmate can cause chaos. Violence elsewhere in the prison can cause the whole place to be locked down. Extra energy? Extra time? Who has it? We all need someone standing over our shoulder telling us to keep putting pen to paper, to cheer us on. I feel like that’s part of what we do for these guys, and I take it seriously. I want their words to hit that paper often, and I worry about how their writing will slow when we are not there.

In the meantime, I have work from the guys to critique, and so I will spend time with their words one way or another tomorrow night.

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