Joel’s Blog: Trust and Community

July 7, 2014

In a few days I will mark my 5 month anniversary.  I’m finding the time
moves faster now that I have a constant routine.  I’ve also gotten pretty
close with the main players on my range, and they’ve accepted me as one of
them.  I genuinely enjoy spending time with these 4 or 5 guys, whether it’s
sharing meals, playing cards, watching movies, or working out.

New York City is a frustrating place for me because there is so much
emphasis on the individual.  It’s hard to feel like you’re part of a
community in such a big city.  Even though I managed to develop close and
important friendships before my incarceration, I felt surprisingly alone.
I think part of being human is the need to feel like you belong somewhere.
Living in such a massive capitalistic hub like NYC can be alienating
because of the difficulty of satisfying our communal needs.

Strangely, jail satisfies those needs.  Some of the friendships I’ve formed
just couldn’t exist anywhere else.  Out in the real world, it is so easy to
find ways to distract yourself from establishing meaningful connections
with people.  The distractions are infinite.  Here we have no choice but to
deal with each other.  This can be both stressful and highly rewarding at
the same time.

Upon reflection, I’ve ignored much of the advice people gave me before
coming here.  The conventional wisdom for surviving prison is to keep to
yourself and “do your own time”.  While this advice is good as a
foundation, I think it’s also important to be social – to meet people and
talk to people – rather than just keeping your head down.  Keeping your
head down and being a wallflower is surely the safest strategy but it’s far
from being the most rewarding one.

Guys here always tell me, “You can’t trust anyone.”  I think they apply
that philosophy outside of jail too.  No doubt, it’s of the utmost
importance to keep people at arm’s length when you are incarcerated - at
least until you get to know them.  There are all sorts of snakes, rats,
psychos, and crazies walking around here.  There are also some very good
men.  Men who I know I can trust because they mean what they say and say
what they mean.  In jail there are people of a high moral caliber.  Just
like in the real world they are a minority, but they exist.  Find them,
befriend them, earn their trust and let them earn yours.  You won’t be