The best way to enact change within this system is to listen and hear the guys who are in it.
We discuss the glorification of prison in movies and music videos and how that seems disrespectful and appropriates the experience of prisoners. We talk about the misrepresentation of prison in these media and it becomes offensive that people are using it as some kind of entertainment. “Anyone who’s been here and done time understands there’s nothing entertaining about prison.”
“It’s an impossible reality to depict.” On movies that feature prison life. “In one prison I was in, they would store urine and feces in a tobacco jar and they would throw these at each other or squirt them under the cell door of each other’s cell, so you would be living and smelling feces for countless days because the guards aren’t in a rush to come and clean it…it’s disgusting, but that’s the kind of lifestyle that’s really happening in prison. That’s not a movie or a video, that’s real.”
“You wake up every day with the same thought: “Am I going to be attacked today?” and when the day is over and nothing happens, that’s a good day.”
Jim Christmas’ Quora link: Is prison really as bad as it is portrayed on TV?: https://www.quora.com/Have-any-Hollywood-accurately-depicted-prison-life-without-glorifying-nor-underplaying-it
All the things you see on tv are real things; they just act as those these are the only things. Prison is 10% physical, but the rest is mental. If you are able to maintain mentally, you’re ok. It’s not the physical thing that will kill you it’s the mental day-to-day grind and just trying not to be overwhelmed with thoughts of loneliness, despair, betrayal. If you’re able to work your way mentally through these things, then you’re ok. You could go a whole sentence and not be in one fight.
We encourage a production company to go into the prison and record a real-life perspective with no staging, to get an accurate depiction of life in prison. With our recordings, we’re trying to bring that reality of prison life so that people can understand.
We discuss the ideal of Nothing About Us Without Us to promote diversity, equity and inclusion. Those who are incarcerated should be included in consulting and the opportunity to consult while in prison, instead of after they’re released. There is no consultation with us about the policies. You have Senators that come to interview guys on the inside, and every time they come we tell them the same things, but I have never seen them implement anything we have ever said to them. Ever. 30 years. They waste paper writing up recommendations saying what should be done, but none of it is ever followed through on, or if it is being implemented, we’re not knowing about that at the grassroots level. We’re asking for better programs and better skills training so that when a guy comes out, he’s coming out to an opportunity. But nothing changes because there’s no accountability. It seems like people are doing this because they’re just trying to keep their jobs. It’s empty words.
Reference to : A Case Study of Diversity in Corrections: The Black Inmate Experience in Federal Penitentiaries Final Report – Published in 2014 – https://www.oci-bec.gc.ca/cnt/rpt/oth-aut/oth-aut20131126-eng.aspx
The Senate Report by Senators Kim Pate and Senator Josée Forest-Niesing regarding Costs of Inmates – https://sencanada.ca/media/368507/nr_senpate_pbo-costing-of-sius-statement-24-nov-2021_e.pdf
When people depict war, they try their best to keep it as authentic as possible, so when people are depicting this place and glorifying it and making light of what is really is, nobody is really up in arms about it. We need this to change. We need the reality depicted. That will take the glamour away from prison and hopefully help more people understand that it’s not a good place to be and deter them from crime.
In the 90s, going to jail was a cool thing – it gave you cred and that armor, especially if you went to the penitentiary, people want to know you because of that – you were seen as somebody, but nowadays, when I look back, I see that as a wasted life; there’s nothing glamourous about a wasted life.
“If you told what the day to day grind of prison is, no human being is going to be affected by it. It’s boring.”
Are prisons divided into ethnocultural groups as depicted in the movies? You hang out with who you’re compatible with. In our group, most of the guys were Jamaican and other Caribbean guys, but did we have white guys with us, yes. You hang out with who you relate to. It’s not about racial tension, but about your social group. You’re trying to be as comfortable as possible while you’re in the box [prison]
We have bullies in society and in jail, we have just the same, only they’re 10x more dangerous, but these fights don’t happen as often as they show in the movies. It doesn’t show guys when they’re enjoying themselves playing cards or sports, they’re not showing guys in school or in programs, because that’s not going to sell.
“When I first got here and I was still in my youth, I would celebrate a birthday with some guys and celebrate the day, but as the birthdays became more and more, I realized that these were just years being wasted because there was nothing to celebrate. Why celebrate a wasted year?”
This is the reality of prison life.