The following article originally appears in the Summer 2016 edition of Inside Journal®, a quarterly newspaper printed by Prison Fellowship® to correctional facilities across the country.
BE YOUR OWN BEST ADVOCATE
Three Ways to Make the Most of Your Time Behind Bars
When you are in the system, life can seem hopeless. You have few choices, little input, and a lot of people telling you what to do. It's tempting to shut off your brain and just do time.
However, we are each created with unique gifts. It's unhealthy—and against our design—to numb out and let time slip by. It might seem easiest in the short run, but just doing time wastes the gift of each day. It promotes hopelessness, and it sets you up for failure upon release.
The truth is, even when you are behind bars, you do still have some control. Your mindset is the single greatest factor in whether you do time, or whether you manage to use time.
USE YOUR TIME WELL
Resist thinking of yourself as the victim of a situation someone else imposed on you. You have the choice to be the best person you can be today and work toward the person you want to be tomorrow. Decide what action you will take to do more than just get by psychologically and physically. Think about what good you can do, for yourself and others, with the talent and opportunities you do have.
Realize that everyone lives in a community. Sometimes we talk as though "the community" only existed outside prison. The fact is, you live in a community right now, and you can be a powerful voice for wellness, safety, and growth. Every resident of every prison has an opportunity to be a good citizen today.
Your actions and attitudes shape your in-prison community. When you establish strong, prosocial relationships, it benefits you and your neighbors. When you help solve problems, give respect, and encourage healthy living, you are part of the solution. Whether you signed up to be one or not, you are a role model for the people around you.
PRACTICE GOOD CITIZENSHIP
Ninety-five percent of prisoners will be released, and many have a great vision for what they are going to do in the free world. But practicing good citizenship in the prison community now greatly improves your chances of being a good citizen when you get there. Don't deceive yourself: there's nothing magical about passing through the gate. The person you are in prison is the person you'll be on the street.
So, start right now. You might not have many freedoms, but you still have what's most important: influence, control over your attitude and aspirations, and a choice about how you will use your time today. Use what you have for good.