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Institutional Peer Pressure

Sample paper 2 by Samuel Morasch - Spring 2011

All I can think about is where to start. I was thinking about the beginning but that might be a little too early in the life I speak of. I wish I had more life experience I could work with but maybe the experiences I can objectively speak of can help me and others around me have more understanding of some of life's core values and social norms that can be better understood. In society I have lived constantly adjusting my values and norms to fit those acceptable by society's standards. Sometimes situations arise in the free world that are very aggressive and I work with what good experiences I have to reflect on to avoid the negative group pressure and discover more productive ways of dealing with different situations throughout the course of life. Coming from a good upbringing I was like many others, very foolish in my teenage years. With my parents never teaching me anything about jail or prison I was schooled as soon as I showed up to McLaren "Juvenile jail" and unlike so many other people that came before me in what is referred to as the testing situation, a fight for ones safety, I stood against many by myself with those watching making wagers. In that instant when It was all over I knew that whatever I had done was the right way to act in this place I was sent to live receiving pats on the back from people I have never met and hugs while getting cuffed. Being forced into a living situation where violence is the first and only way to really get your point across did, in a way, corrupt my way of life for a while.

In the free world there are always going to be those people that were on the inside that had a hidden problem and when I happen to cross paths with them I move with caution because ex-cons generally like to sabotage other people's opportunities. After going through the hundreds of job interviews and the discrimination I know I have learned the one thing no one can teach, I learned how to live by standards that are not just my own, but I now live by societies standards as well. After six and a half years one would think resorting to violence is the last way after you have already called the cops. Yet I still find myself at times wondering should I make that call to 911 when life happens, because when we do the right thing it is more of an instinct to keep the community safe. I have become a person chasing this thing called normality and now I'm learning there is no normal, it all seems to depend on what group people hang out with on what they consider to be normal. I wasn't able to write about group pressure I have personally got to be a part of during discussion because the truth behind some of what I'm going to discuss is not society's norm. However, my prison experience stretches nearly two decades so bare with me for I have run into dead ends with all other subjects.

I have been able to contrast a lot from the institutions to the free world, any police man/woman would probably say no way those people don't work like that and that is completely understandable because they really do see the worst side of most criminals. Back to group pressure. Around Christmas time on the inside there is a lot of tension with everyone missing their families and every jail/prison has some amount of corrections officers walking around commenting reminding the inmates about their personal losses of freedom which really does cause defiance to take root and in turn there is more fights among the population. When an 18 year old youngster gets sentenced to a ten year measure 11 and walks the unit no matter where it is there will be some level of uncertainty considering how most of society views prison which is understandably so. It is quite common for the new younger inmates to be tested, some close bonds are made in this primitive head bashing way because if one stands up for themselves against the odds they earn a title as someone that isn't to be messed with and in there that in its self is enough to make the predators back off. I mean after all they want to extort someone that is scared so they can get paid not try to do it to someone that will stand up for what is right. I witnessed a situation many years ago where a teenager was sentenced to 70 months and being that young I'm close to sure that Joey Peterson, the teenager, didn't see any future after his projected release date and quite possibly couldn't even imagine being released. I say this for reasons that he has since 1999 made some poor choices like assaulting staff members and other corrections staff. I have thought long and hard as to why some people when sentenced to something like 70 months choose to do things like assault staff members. After asking around through many letters written through other people so they couldn't trace it to me because having info like that on the inside can be very dangerous I have to say I wasn't surprised to find out that Joey had joined a gang called the Aryan Death Squad and had made a pact to attack officers on sight. Although cases like the one with Joey Peterson are not by any means the norm I have seen an influx of inmates over the last fifteen years get caught up in acquiring more time on their sentences which leads me to believe that the level of group pressure is ever increasing whether gang activity or just more violence It is quite apparent just how strong group influence is inside our State and Federal institutions.

One might be a person that abhors violence within a primitive group setting, however, when people really are put in that very situation and survival instincts take over it makes some capable of going to extremes over group pressures they weren't aware they could go to before they were forced to. As bad as it sounds there is this general acceptance they experience and the measures are set apart in terms of an emotional understanding. If an inmate gets 24 months for burglary and a year and a half into his sentence he starts hanging out with someone that is in for assault and has four more years, the only thing to do is be understanding. Acting any other way could be interpreted as an insult and although some go the insulting route most prefer the non confrontational route. I know especially how people think in the free world about racism. Most jump to conclusions that one person or group of people can actually change the way we view race on the inside. Truth being said it is not even about race directly. It's about the strong ruling the weak, and prisoners testing their closest friends on the inside all the time for reasons like needing that assurance the people around you have your back just in case stuff happens. If someone doesn't follow suite upon arrival there will be a whole lot of people after that one person that won't conform to something bigger than itself. I would add group pressure is heavy in those settings.

Degradation as stated in the text sounded horrid but objectively speaking don't they have to focus on the safety and security of the jail/institution first. Let me talk a little about why those places have such strict policy. First It is a game for someone that is doing five plus years because there isn't any good time to lose so they learn to break as many rules as humanly possible while receiving encouraging nods and signals from those in their group that except the violent way. With much of the ways on the inside being like living in medieval times it is no wonder that over the years those places are becoming more and more violent with longer sentences that generally are given without the option for good time and earned time credits. I have felt the hopelessness at the beginning of a long sentence and it can be overwhelming in a way that is very hard to describe; but all hope being gone and having nothing to live for is pretty close to putting it in words. After a while all we have is our dreams to keep us going every day and believe me when I say they try to take all one holds close to their heart. There isn't any program they have that can teach a person how not to let them take what is important in life as we lose touch with the outside world we dream of living in.

I'm not even sure I'm supposed to be talking about the harsh realities of real life; however, what I say consumes me daily especially in the community I live in. I am not someone that is ever going beg for forgiveness over what was and that alone makes it harder because almost everyone likes an ex-con that accepts his/her wrongs. I look at it like this - I personally had goals that I worked toward with my old life style and now that is behind me I don't look for easy ways to make money and I'm not putting myself in the middle of any unwelcome situations. Please let me elaborate on my unwillingness to just go through their programs. I am a body builder with unbelievable strength and speed and living the life style I use to I kind of ran over the top of many people on the other side of the law. At the time I was under the impression I could smash anyone as long as they were on the other side of the law Boy was I wrong. I didn't realize at the time those people that were making illegal money have rights just like anyone else and because I'm not a cop I know now that I caused more harm than good. I know now that my fight against the law has been misguided and wrong, and I refuse to stand in front of many and lie about how sorry I am. After twenty some years in and out of prison I will be the first to say I wasn't always wrong for doing what I have" assaults". I live in the same community I have always lived in and I'm safe because people still remember how far I'm willing to go when protecting my family. They also know the "bad-boy" peer pressure can't touch me now.