Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Owning the future

I am a licensed bachelor social worker in the state of Texas and I work in a state run psychiatric prison... One of the hardest tasks I face is to give young patients (or old patients)  with long sentences a sense of future.

It is understandable that any prisoner, young or old, with a very long sentence stretching before him or her feels hopeless and helpless.   Sometimes we refer them to read Viktor Frankl's "Man Search for Meaning" (I give you the Wikipedia site, as there does not seem to be a definitive site) http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Man's_Search_for_Meaning.  And, we look for other motivations.

Some inmates can be motivated to pursue some esoteric interests: reading, education, religion, helping others. Most find it difficult to think of doing anything other than "one day at a time." 

Some can be motivated to help even newer inmates to learn about doing prison time, and adjusting to the very different culture of prison...

Sometimes, I grasp at air straws while trying to help these patients find meaning for life:  a child who may want to know a parent in 20 years; a mother who never stops loving her child; another prisoner who needs help.  Most recently, a patient mentioned that the jury could have given him from 5 to 99 years, but gave him 25 years.  He hearkened to the comment that maybe the jury saw something in him that hoped that he would learn something new and better in 25 years.  A young man, he liked that idea...To implant it further, I told him he had an obligation to that jury to prove them right... He liked that idea, too.  Hope springs eternal..

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