My mentor, Sandra Rogers, PhD, OTR/L, FAOTA, asked me:
“In your blog titled: Those Who Will Re-offend And Those Who Will Stay Out, you imply why you feel like Paul will re-offend and Terry will stay out but you do not explicitly say why – can you tell me explicitly why? Or is it just a feeling?”
Its definitely just a feeling. However, I can explicitly explain why I have such feelings.
I feel Paul will come back because he’s in here gambling, using drugs, giving dirty UA’s, getting tattoo write ups, getting caught with tattoo guns and ink, and engaging in a constant stream of misconduct. He’s in prison and his activities are still criminal. He hasn’t changed one bit. Couple that with the fact that he’s been in and out of prison 4 times, and it’s easy to see he’ll be back for a 5th time.
But wait! There’s more! Upon his release, he’s going right back to the same environment that fosters his sad lifestyle. He’ll be hanging with the same bad crowd, doing the same bad things. Remember this post. Paul gets out soon. When he comes back, I’ll let you all know. It’ll be within 3 years of today.
As for Terry, I have a feeling he’ll stay out because he’s engaged in positive meaningful activities. He doesn’t engage in criminal activities. While in prison, he’s earned several degrees and has completed just about every program offered. He applies his newly learned skills on a daily basis. His actions are positive and productive. He gets along well with staff and inmates.
But wait! There’s more. Upon his release he’ll be going to a new environment that’s secure and structured. An environment that’s free of alcohol, drugs, and criminal culture.
Then there’s the statist factor that says people who serve 20 consecutive years or more, are less likely to come back.
Terry was 16 when he came in. He’ll be 36 when he gets out. His brain is completely developed now, he’s a different person today opposed to back when he was 16. He’s nurtured his mind with positive, productive material. And most of all, he has a strong will to live a happy life among the law abiding citizens of this country.
I would be shocked if Terry came back.
I would be shocked if Paul didn’t come back.
If you look closely at inmates and examine their daily activities, and how they conduct themselves, it’s relatively easy to predict who will come back and who will stay out.
It’s easy to identify those who will re-offend and come back to prison vs. those who will get out and be successful. So why not implement programs that REALLY focus on the 66% who will re-offend? In order to identify those who will re-offend vs. those who will stay out, I have randomly selected and interviewed 2 inmates.
Here’s an interview I did with a guy who will come back to prison:
Paul is a 35 year old white male.
He’s been in and out of prison 4 times.
He currently has 2 years left before he gets out.
His rap sheet is long: robbery, burglary, I.D. theft, possession of stolen property, possession of stolen vehicle, eluding, etc. And his infraction history includes: tattooing, failure to provide a UA, dirty UA, etc.
I asked him, “How did you end up in prison?”
He said, “Drugs and addiction.”
I asked him, “Who are you?”
He paused. He was stuck. I wanted to help urge him along, but I kept quiet as he processed the question. It literally took him 45 seconds before he said, “I’m a charismatic, outgoing, loving guy who is easily influenced. I know right from wrong but I always choose wrong for some unknown reason. My priorities are all wrong. I’m selfish and unresponsible [sic]. I always make excuses and justify my wrong actions.”
He said for himself that he is “easily influenced.” So why not influence this man with positive, meaningful activities that inspires great intrinsic motivation?
I asked him, “How do you spend your days?”
He said, “I play cards, workout, and kick it with friends.”
I asked Paul, “What do you want to do when you get out?”
He said, “Run a business and be a father. Enjoy life.”
I asked, “What type of business?”
He said, “A Tow Truck company. Or a Barber Shop. I’ve even been thinking about a Detail Shop.”
I then asked, “What are you doing now, while in prison, to ensure success?”
He said, “I’m reading a book on small businesses. I think about it a lot. I need to start writing things down.”
The last question I asked Paul was, “Will you come back to prison?”
He said, “I hope not.”
There’s no question in my mind that Paul will come back to prison. Every sign points to it. However, things might be drastically different for Paul if he was engaging in meaningful activities that would tap into his Intrinsic Motivation.
Now here’s an interview I did with a guy who will get out, stay out, and be successful:
Terry Essick is 33. He fell in 1999 and gets out in 2019. He got 20 years for 1st degree murder.
Infraction free for over 5 years.
Spends his days going to school, studying, working out, dog program, and applying what he learns.
Says he’s in prison because as a kid he lacked structure and proper guidance, which lead to an unhealthy lifestyle.
Describes himself as an outgoing, charismatic, empathic, kind, caring man who is very stern when need be.
Upon release he wants to get into small business management (fitness related). And invest in real estate, and other commodities such as energy, and the stock market.
To prepare for these future events he takes college courses, reads educational books, and watches educational programs. He’s already earned his Certified Training Degree. With his knowledge, he mentors others in here.
Now here’s something that surprised me. I asked him, “Will you be back after you get out?”
He said, “I don’t intend to. But you never know. I mean, I don’t know what fate has in store for me. If someone hurts my family or anyone I love, all bets are off.”
After that last comment, I went from believing there’s no way he’ll be back….to, he very well could be back. I mean after all, he is in for killing a man who was harassing his mother.
Here are 8 questions from Sandra Rogers, PhD, OTR/L. Please click on each one to read my answers.
Now that I’m learning a little about Occupational Therapy, I feel like it’s giving me a deeper, richer, more thorough understanding of life in general. I reflect back to my days of crime and misconduct, and I see direct parallels to the fact that I had zero to very little meaningful activities in my life.
Today I engage in several meaningful activities. And as a result, I live a healthy lifestyle full of love, compassion, excitement, and happiness. It’s so clear to see that the healthy lifestyle came AFTER I started to engage in meaningful activities.
Early in my incarceration I had a desire to live a healthy lifestyle. I told myself on numerous occasions, “It’s time. Let’s do it!” But time and time again, I’d fail. Why? Because I wasn’t engaging in meaningful activities. The ONLY way to achieve a healthy lifestyle IS to engage in meaningful activities. There’s no other way to do it!
I’m so glad I’m learning this stuff. In addition to the clarity it brings me, it also teaches me effective ways to articulate my journey when mentoring and helping others.
I feel like I’ve done a lot of this work on my own. And just now, I’m starting to learn about it from a clinical standpoint. Which is great! Because the principles and philosophies have been validated before they were recognized.
Now it’s time to continue to learn and build as I use Occupational Therapy (Wikipedia definition). That in itself is a meaningful activity that is essential to a healthy lifestyle.
I’ve learned that in Occupational Therapy there are 7 areas of occupation that people engage in. Some are self explanatory. Some are not. But I feel they are all important to know. By knowing them, I can achieve a better balance in my life. I can do a self evaluation and determine if I’m lacking or over compensating in a specific area. The 7 occupations are:
#1) Activities of Daily Living (ADL) – This refers to basic needs such as eating, showering, hygiene, clothing, sex, etc.
I’m definitely lacking in the sex department. So this is something I need to address in my life. And address it I shall…in March 2017!…EFV’s with my wife, Suzie. 🙂
#2) Instrumental Activities of Daily Living (IADL’s) – This is the act of caring for my environment, such as ordering my commissary, cleaning my cell, helping my disabled celly, taking care of my dog, turning off the water that people deliberately leave on, etc.
I feel balanced with this one. However, I can do more. A lot of guys don’t clean up after themselves. Therefore, the sink and microwave area is always a mess. From now on, whenever I see a mess, I’ll take 30 seconds and clean it up. Why not? It’ll be good for me.
#3) Education – Participating in a learning environment or learning activities.
I could definitely use more of this. And now that its been brought to my attention, I will actively seek opportunities to engaged in more educational activities. I currently engage in two educational activities: NA Meetings and the Sustainability In Prison lectures.
#4) Leisure – A non-obligatory activity that is engeged in during discretionary time.
I have plenty of leisure activities, such as: blogging, writing Real Love Letters to the love of my life, working out, taking my dog for a walk, reading, etc.
#5) Work – Employment. Making money. Getting paid! Also, volunteer activities.
I do both. Freedom Tails is all volunteer work. And I find it way more rewarding than my actual job. If I had to choose between my “Remunerative Work” and my “Volunteer Work” I would sacrifice my pay and choose my Volunteer work. This just goes to show how rewarding volunteer work really is.
#6) Play – Any activity that provides enjoyment, entertainment, amusement, or diversion.
This is interesting. Because what happens when these adjectives can be applied to work, volunteer, and leisure? All of a sudden, play becomes a dominant meaningful activities in my life. I like that! I’m going to make it happen.
#7) Social Participation – Activities associated with patterns of behavior within a given social system.
Prison is a social system. A lot of misconduct goes on in here. So I’m better off engaging in anti-social participation when it comes to the prison social system as a whole. Another word for “Social Participation” in prison would be “Institutionalized”. This is just one perspective. My reality is: there are sub societies within the overall predominant prison social system.
By conducting myself in a positive, productive manner, and observing The Law of Attraction, I find my self socially participating in a positive mini sub-division within a predominant negative social system. The social participation that I engage in, is strong enough to give me strength to navigate through the negative prison social system without getting caught up in the current of negativity.
Back in 1994, I was in a drunken rage and shot 4 innocent young men. It is only because of their strong will that no one died. I got what I deserved: 43 years in prison. I’ve never appealed it. I’ve never seeked clemency. And I have no desire to be paroled.
I take full responsibility for my actions and I accept my sentence in full. I have about 13 years left to serve. I refuse to take my incarceration in vain. I am determined to match and exceed all my negative behaviors of the past, with present and future actions of love & compassion towards all of humanity.
My crimes of the past has set my bar extremely high for the present and future. As of today, I’m nowhere near where I need to be. I know I can never right my wrongs. But I can and will use it as motivation to give it my very best.
My setback is a 43 year prison term, and the fact that I hurt 4 people and all their friends and families, and all the bystanders and their friends and families, and all of my friends and family. Therefore, my equal seed of opportunity has to be extraordinary. And that’s exactly what I’m striving for.
The consequences of my crime has and will continue to inspire great change.
“I think it would be helpful for the audience to understand how you personally were affected by Occupational Deprivation.” ~Sandra Rogers
That single sentence stood out to me and is where the title of this post came from. First, I had to understand the meaning of Occupational Deprivation (OD). As far as I can tell, it means: The lack of meaningful activities. Hmmm…all of my activities have had some type of meaning behind them.
I hustled, gambled, sold drugs and tobacco.
The Meaning: to make money.
I got in fights.
The Meaning: to earn respect and to release pent up frustrations and aggression.
In a Penitentiary, or a Correctional Center, these truly are meaningful activities. If I want to spend the rest of my life locked up and miserable! Early on in my incarceration I knew I had to change. I wanted to change! (For an in-depth look, please read my ebook, Stone City: Life In The Penitentiary)
The cure to Occupational Deprivation is Meaningful Activities. But for years, I was denied. I asked numerous DOC employees for help. The answer was always the same, “No. Those programs are for short timers…you have too much time.”
My misconduct would continue and I’d end up in the hole. Again! I shed many tears in The Hole. Because that’s when & where reality really hit! Prison. 43 years. The pain I’ve caused others. Isolation. Being a failure. A loser. The list goes on…
One time when I was in the hole they cuffed me and escorted me to the recreation enclosure. On the way there I saw a flier advertising Anger Management and Victim Awareness. These classes were available in the hole. Two classes I desperately needed. So I submitted a kite requesting them.
To my surprise, they denied me. The reason: I wasn’t doing enough time in the hole.
That pissed me off! While in population I’m denied for having too much time. And in the hole I’m denied for not having enough time. But if I seriously hurt someone and get, let’s say,12 months in the hole, then I’ll get the classes and my long prison sentence is no longer a factor.
It’s logic like this that’s so discouraging.
Lucky for me, I have a strong will and a burning desire for redemption (see: Redemption, It’s My Choice). Despite set back after set back, I continued to seek understanding as I took moral inventory of myself. As I write this and reflect back, I now see that I had the desire to get better, but I severely lacked in the “meaningful activity” department. Therefore, I struggled.
Occupational Deprivation was my program! And I suffered greatly because of it.
Today, my life is full of “meaningful activities.” And as a result, I’ve never been happier or more productive.
I go to NA Meetings, which I gain so much wisdom & knowledge from.
I’m in The Dog Program and I have the privilege of loving a dog named, Yahoo.
I graduated from my Redemption and Roots of Success classes because I wasn’t told, “No. You have too much time.”
I’ve started reading Influential Books, which I thoroughly enjoy.
I mentor those who are ready to hear positive messages. I lead by example so my words have greater impact.
I’m the nations leading blogger from behind bars.
I have meaningful relationships with the people I call Friends.
I have a job passing out commissary to thousands of guys.
I prepare healthy meals for myself and I workout regularly.
The list of “meaningful activities” goes on and on….and my most treasured one is my marriage. I have the most caring, loving wife any man could ever hope to have. Suzie has blessed my life beyond what I thought possible. The love I feel for her in my heart is stronger than any other feeling I’ve ever known.
All these “meaningful activities” have completely wiped out OD. Perhaps I should’ve titled this post, “How I Am Affected By Meaningful Activities.” Because this is where the beauty is. This is where true transformation is realized.
Its great to learn new terms and articulate my journey under the umbrella of Occupational Therapy. But the truth is: If someone wants change, they must want it for themselves, then relentlessly pursue it everyday for the rest of their lives.
It is now, after I am well on my way, that I make the connection between “meaningful activities” and rehabilitation. It would’ve been nice to learn all this years before I did. Better late than never.
I recently received an email from Sandra Rogers. She is a faculty member in the School of Occupational Therapy (OT) at Pacific University. In part, this is how the email read:
My name is Sandra Rogers, I am a faculty member in the School of OT at Pacific University. I am writing to request help with a project I am working on. I work and mentor a group of occupational therapists who work in criminal justice (prison, jail, and community corrections) throughout the US. Occupational therapists believe that engaging in meaningful activities is important no matter your circumstances. In correctional facilities OT’s work with those incarcerated to help them develop and practice skills that lead to engagement in healthy lifestyles, like work that you enjoy, leisure interests that are fulfilling (and do not harm others), taking care of children or families, having relationships that are meaningful and healthy. We term the lack of engagement in meaningful activities occupational deprivation. I think you are a very good example of how engaging in meaningful activities, even while incarcerated, can really help you maintain health. I have read your blog and book, your wonderful relationship with your wife, and have been reading your adventures with Yahoo. I am wondering if you would be willing to talk to me about your experience of engaging in these activities and how they have helped you. IF you are willing I would love to videotape or share your written comments with the group of OT’s I mentor, and use your comments in a presentation I am doing. I would be very interested in hearing your thoughts from a lived perspective, of having to deal with the consequences of the crime, and still trying to do good in the world. I think it would be helpful for the audience to understand how you personally were affected by occupational deprivation.
How awesome is that? I share this because IT in itself is “meaningful activity” to me. She and I have exchanged emails about working together and I am super excited about all of this. She’ll be interviewing me via email, phone calls, and video visitations. And I will be sure to blog this experience here for you all to read.
This blog is “meaningful activity” and has enriched my life tremendously.
I look forward to working with Sandra. This experience will be both educational and healing. It’ll also give me the opportunity to acquire new tools to help myself and others.
After reading her first email I learned the term “meaningful activities” and the crucial role they play in a healthy lifestyle. I am so excited about this learning journey I’m about to embark upon. Nothing gets me more excited, except for my wife and our upcoming EFV’s! 🙂
Already, Sandra has inspired deep, intellectual, soul searching thought. As a result, I have decided to write an ongoing blog series based solely on the food-for-thought which she inspires. The following three titles were derived from the very words she wrote in her initial email to me. I will kick start this series with:
It is my greatest hope that this blog will plant seeds that will somehow reach your incarcerated loved one (or anyone else for that matter) and inspire positive change in those lives.