Mom is worried I’m going to marry a con

Posted: September 24, 2009 in prison, general, Uncategorized
Tags: , ,

My mom talked to a woman a few weeks back who used to work in the medical ward of a prison.

I’ve learned it’s not usually a good thing when someone who loves you starts a conversation by saying, “I was talking to X, and she used to work in a prison and she says…”. Because typically what is said is 1) all inmates are cons 2) they are always conning and 3) tell your daughter to be careful.

I feel bad for my mom sometimes. Since I was a teenager I have been talking about wanting to work in prisons. She remembers having long conversations at dinner over the death penalty — me vehemently opposed, setting out my arguments over pasta and sauteed vegetables as if I knew everything there was to be known about the issue at all of sixteen. But, like many things I wanted at sixteen, my mother believed this desire to work on the inside would pass.

But it didn’t.

And that’s how we ended up on the couch this past weekend with her assessing my “mental and emotional state” in regards to my work at Monroe. Here is the list of things she wanted to check in about:

How close is the nearest guard to my classroom? Answer: right down the hall, and there are cameras in all the classrooms.

What happens if there’s a riot? Answer: You wait for the guys with guns to show up. The longer answer: for the most part, I’ve been told, and I truly believe, that in the event of a riot or other violence breaking out while I’m in the prison the guys in our group would do what they could to protect the volunteers. It’s hard for me to imagine being taken hostage (my mother’s worst fear). The men don’t see us as bargaining chips. DOC staff they might see that way. But not volunteers. I hope I’m never wrong about this.

What happens if one of the men asks me for a favor? Answer: You say no. It’s against the rules, and, even more so, you don’t want to create a situation where appear to be playing favorites with any of the guys. However, just because one of the men asks me for a favor doesn’t mean he’s trying to manipulate or con me. It’s a limited existence in prison. Having access to someone on the outside–someone who can look things up on the internet, make a phone call, etc–is an opportunity (and not always to do evil, commit a crime, order a “hit”–whatever people thing they are trying to con me into doing). I don’t know that you can fault a guy for asking for a favor occasionally, even if he knows you have to say no.

Am I careful not to say where I live or give out personal information? Answer: Yes, of course. However, I do tell them I had cancer, that I’m a writer and that I just graduated from school. It’s hard to ask them to trust me if I don’t trust them in return with a bit of personal information. You don’t build relationship by treating them like inmates 100% of the time.

Do I think it would be a good idea if I took a self-defense class?Answer: Sure, why not. I’ve been looking for a winter exercise anyway. Though I don’t think I’d ever be able to convince myself I could out muscle any of the guys in our group (I didn’t tell my mother that last part).

Please remember, my mother says, there’s a reason the word “con” is in convict. I know, Mom. I know. And I promise, I’m just as careful with the guys in the group as I am with people I meet on the outside. (More on this idea that all inmates are con men in the next post.)

And if my mother ever reads this–thank you, for your concern, and even more so, for never telling me I couldn’t do exactly what I wanted to do.


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