True Self Respect,….. Do you Got it?
True Story by a former correctional counselor at the California Department of Corrections & Rehabilitation.
Rayford Johnson, Former Youth Correctional Counselor-13 years, N.A. Chaderjian Youth Correctional Facility (Inmates 18-25 yrs. of age.)
I remember working at the correctional facility on a lock-up unit, which was basically the jail within the jail. This unit was extremely loud through out the entire day all day, due to the constant verbal combat between gang rivals. However on this one particular day it was unusually quiet. My co-workers and I were amazed at the almost dead silence, other than the one screaming inmate in a solo cell on the second tier. I volunteered to make an attempt to quiet him down. As I approached his door, I stated, “Every one is sleep man, why don’t you take a break, and lay it out too.” He screamed out through his vent again, seeking a rival gang response. Again I informed him everyone was sleep. Through some small talk to follow, we engaged in a conversation, at which time he stated, “ I hate it when it’s quiet.” When I asked him why, he replied “Because I think”. I asked him “why don’t you like to think?”, he said “Because I think back to all the evil I’ve done, the girls I’ve violated and how I’ve let my family down.” He stated when he was on the “streets”, he could distract himself from his thoughts through drugs, alcohol, sex, music and “gang banging”. However on the lock up-unit, no such escapes were accessible. Therefore he conveyed the only method available for him was to engage a rival gang member in verbal combat. He conveyed to me that the real prison was not the brick, mortar and metal of the prison, but the prison within his mind. In short he told me his personal thought life made him not like himself, due to all bad he had done in his life.
Knowing he was in a gang, I then asked him, “ Why did you join the gang in the first place?” His tone changed immediately from a low level somber tone, to a military drill sergeant, stating, “For respect and respect for my barrio!” I told him “Let’s test that”, “What do you mean?”, he quickly replied. I explained to him that we were going to see if it was actually true that he joined that gang for respect. “ Do the activities you do as a gang member violate your conscience?” He looked at me with a surprised expression, then responded, “Yeah, so.” Well how do you deal with that? I asked, “ I smoke weed and drink some alcohol, and then shake it off.” I then asked him, “Would you say your conscience and your self respect is one in the same?”. “What do you mean by that?”, I went on to elaborate the following: “ If you didn’t smoke cigarettes, because you believed it to be bad for you, but I put pressure on you to smoke any way, and you finally gave in. Did I make you violate your self-respect, by making you go against your conscience? He thought about it for a few seconds and then answered, “yeah I guess.”