MANY BELIEVE that a day in prison is a day wasted. But I say the value of a day is determined only by the beholder.
A typical day for me here begins with the beeping of my rinky dink, plastic alarm clock every morning at 5:30. Apart from in summer (which seems to be shorter here than in the rest of the country), it is usually still dark outside. I reluctantly roll over to my side, shut off the annoying beeper, and mumble seven words that have subconsciously become part of my morning ritual: “I gotta get the hell outta jail.”
I slowly crawl out of bed, relieve my bladder, wash up, rinse my mouth, and drink several cups of water. I then roll out my yoga mat and hit the floor, stretching and posing, and doing myriad other contortionist moves to fend off the stiffness, aches, and pains that come with not only aging in prison, but also eight consecutive hours of lying on a steel bunk cushioned by only two inches of foam. I toss lukewarm instant oatmeal mixed with peanut butter on a bowl of bran flakes, and my day begins.
The cell doors are unlocked at 6:30. But I usually don’t step out until seven. While the rest of the prisoners rush to the chow hall like a herd of cattle, to pick up a Styrofoam tray filled with bran flakes and a banana (yes, it is the same every morning), I stay put and prep for the tasks that make up the significance of my day.
I am the head mentor in the Challenge Program, a highly recognized program in the FBOP that teaches prisoners cognitive thinking skills to help us become more “pro social”. My tasks as a mentor are unlimited. I teach classes, facilitate groups and meetings, resolve conflicts between irrational prisoners, and the list goes on. In addition to being a Challenge Program mentor, I am the guy who everyone in the prison seems to rely on when a situation arises. “Adams!” one particular female staff member often yells when conflicts and situations need to be addressed and resolved. I used to loathe her shrieking voice, but now, ironically, I embrace it. It’s a revelation of my having purpose even in a world where there seems to be none. And my embracing of this reveals my growth as a man, one who cares less about how he is perceived by irrational individuals and is more fulfilled by the acceptance of rational, so-called law-abiding people.