by: Mary Campbell
I was a resident of the Honor Dorm, Unit 512, C Yard at CCWF for 3 years. The criteria for living in this unit are: you must be disciplinary free, have a job or be
programming. The privileges you get in the Honor Dorm?first in line for chow release, R&R packages, family visiting, release from lock downs, and first to receive food sales?are nice to have, and I am wholly in favor of positive reinforcement and rewards for good behavior. I want to offer some suggestions about how to make the Honor Dorm work for everyone.
First off, with all the cuts in education and programming, will the Honor Dorm be the only dorm programming and receiving education which is a right, not a privilege or reward? As far as disciplinary free inmates– haven?t we all heard
of bogus write ups? A write up for expired meds that you forgot you
even had stashed in the back of your locker? There are only 200 inmates in the Honor Dorm out of almost 4000 prisoners at CCWF. Surely the Honor Dorm prisoners are not the only ?good prisoners??
The other problem I see with the Honor Dorm is that it sets up judgment on both sides. It sets up a mentality of, ?I am better than you because I live in the Honor Dorm and I have a job,? by those living there and, ?You think you?re
special and better than me because you live in the Honor Dorm,? by those not. Oftentimes, the officers will judge prisoners this same way. They lay guilt trips on prisoners in the Honor Dorm if they make a mistake or act out. They say, ?Oh that?s not very honorable,? in a sneering way or threaten a prisoner
with getting kicked out of the Honor Dorm if they make a mistake.
Everyone in prison is under incredible stress, and fights are one of the primary responses to that pressure. Even if you are not fighting, are following all the rules and doing your time in a peaceful and productive way trying to get
home to your family, you can be slammed into your cell because of ?security issues.? The fight may not even be in your dorm! Those fights, or even something as minor as a missing tool from the ?sewing factory,? can interrupt family visiting, programming, and even church services.
To be treated better because you earned it is a good feeling to have. I believe it
is our collective responsibility to take care of each other and to include each other so everyone can feel valued. So how about making mentoring people outside of the Honor Dorm a requirement to live in the Honor Dorm?
This way, we can help reinforce that rehabilitation and education are rights, not privileges, and Honor Dorm prisoners should not be the only ones programming
and getting educational rights. Jobs and programming can mean the difference between being deemed eligible for parole and not. This is serious!
Again, it is our collective responsibility to take care of each other and contribute to the healing of those who are wounded and struggling. People inside can help
create this community of mutual support by breaking down the judgments,
divisions and competition. We can inspire those who are willing and able, to take it with them back to their communities.
by: Mary Campbell