Saying Goodbye

16 05 2009

Hi everyone. I am writing to say this is my last blog entry and I will be deleting my blog soon. For those of you that have been reading since I first started this blog and then followed me when I created a new one – thank you. Since leaving my job at the prison, I am finding that I haven’t been able to transition this blog to other topics. This was a wonderful outlet for me during a job that was the most difficult one I have had so far. I may blog again, but not about social work. I spend enough hours being a social worker all week and want to focus on other things in my life. I will continue to check in on your blogs and thank you again for all of your support and feedback.

-The inmate whisperer


4 04 2009

Okay, so I’ve got major countertransference going on with a client. M A J O R.

Good things about this:

1. I’m aware of it

2. I am seeking supervision around it

3. I am working hard to figure out how to deal with this person clinically and not let my own crap get in the way

4. I’m certain there is a lesson in this somewhere.

Ass Sucking things about this:

1. I feel irritated. ALOT.

2. I am dreading groups when he actually shows up for treatment.

3. Most of my time in group is dominated by redirecting and refocusing this person’s behavior.

I have tried and tried to figure out if there is someone in my life that he reminds me of. I can’t pinpoint it. The BEHAVIOR however is one that really pushes my buttons. You know the one, the “I know everything about everything, I’m going to make sure everyone knows it, I’m going to sit next to you to enhance my feelings of being an expert and attempts to cofacilitate this group, I don’t have a problem but I come to treatment anyway, even though I am aggressive, abusive, negative, bossy, confrontational with nearly everyone in my life, I use all of these communication, anger managment, and mindfulness skills you are teaching which I am going to be sure to point out so everyone really gets that I know it all” -itis???

Oh for the love of god. Somebody help me.

It takes all of my strength to not want to scream “WHY ARE YOU HERE IF YOU ALREADY KNOW IT ALL?”

I know, I know….the behavior is not about me. I need to not personalize it, this is just his defenses coming up……but it doesn’t make it any less frustrating.

Just released from prison

3 03 2009

After five years of corruption, verbal abuse, negativity, sexual harrassment, and a healthy dose of good ‘ol human misery, I have just been released from prison. I feel so relieved. I am comforted by the hope that I touched some lives while I was there and if anything, helped those incarcerated feel like somebody cared about their well being.

I have taken a part time job working in a partial hospitalization program. In addition, I am doing per diem work with women through a local agency. I am excited about a flexible schedule and having benefits with a part time job. This is giving me a much needed break.

As I said my goodbyes last Friday at the prison, I heard “You’re so lucky, I’m stuck here”, over and over again. As if my getting out of that place was luck instead of a decision I made regarding my own happiness. Most of the people working at the prison are employed by the state, which means if they have 30 or so years of service they get pension and ongoing retirement benefits for life. I cannot express to you all the misery that this creates for most of the people working there. More people than not can tell you at any given moment exactly how many days they have until they retire. They stay in jobs they hate, in a place that they hate, working with people that they hate, for security. And they have made that CHOICE.

Two things became very clear to me as I heard how people were “Stuck” over and over. The first, that no wonder the prison is so full of miserable and negative people all treating each other like garbage.  And second, it is the staff who are in prison in that place, not the inmates. The inmates are going to get out eventually and it appears the staff are not. They are, for all intensive purposes, prisoners of their own minds.

Even though I no longer work at the prison, I will still write about it from time to time. There are enough stories to last a lifetime from that place.  And event though I am no longer in prison, I’m still having adventures in prison and I guess as long as I work with other human beings, that will be the case.

I hope you’ll keep reading.

You can cry in the shower

24 02 2009

Part of helping my clients at the prison is teaching the first timers how to survive. Unfortunately, that means encouraging behavior which feeds into the prison mentality and stereotypes of masculinity. The reasons behind it are important of course. Personal safety is crucial and those new to the prison environment know nothing about the rules or how negatively it will impact them if they break  them.

Often I meet with men putting a great deal of effort into holding back their tears. I acknowledge their pain and how they are feeling and try to gauge if they want to let it out or not. You can tell….those who are looking to let the tears out will do so as they turn their heads away from the door so others don’t see them. The men who fight the tears are usually the ones who need to let the pain out the most. In those moments, I remember the words of an inmate I met with when I first started this job. “Tell ’em to cry in the shower. It’s the only alone time you have in this place and no one can tell that you’ve been crying when you get out.”  I share that information often and that it came from a prior inmate. It is unfortunate that they social rules of prison life won’t allow for expression of pain and vulnerability….that is just what alot of these men need.

Day In the Life of a Prison Social Worker

21 02 2009

8:00  arrive at work. walk through 5 gates and a locked door to get to my hole of an “office”. Open my door to ants crawling everywhere. There is no food, where the hell are they coming from?

8:15  Gather things to go down to the “PODS and do intakes on new prisoners. Walk through 7 gates to get ther and across a Pod floor with 50 inmates on it. Get hollered at by those locked up behind their doors. Sneaky assholes do it when they can’t get caught….

8:30-10:30  Do assessment and intake on 10 new prisoners. Most are polite, some are a bit odd, 5 are on mental health meds, all have substance abuse issues. Get sick of hearing myself repeat the same shit over and over and over…. Despite the monotony, make some good connections and feel like at least I gave some compassion and respect.

10:30  Hang out in the “tower” and shoot the shit with the Correctional Officers. Listen to most people rant and rave about the prison and other people’s lack of living up to their expectations. Defend my position as a mental health worker. Have a couple of laughs. Back to office

10:30 Paperwork, Paperwork, Paperwork. Leave a couple of messages at medical about balls being dropped that need to be picked up. Listen to my coworkers yell back and forth. Get annoyed that my office is 90 degrees. Call maintenance and leave an irritable message about the ant invasion. Eat my lunch, check my blog, count the days until I am done with this job.

12:30  2:30 Count has cleared so I meet with my last 2 clients for termination. Start to feel sad about leaving. Will miss working with these guys. Start to freak out a little about life changes… Try to accept “thank you’s” from clients.  Paperwork, Paperwork, Paperwork.

2:30 – 4:00 Spend some time saying goodbye to coworkers. When asked the question “Why are you going?”  try to resist the urge to answer “Because I’ve had enough misery and corruption for one lifetime.” So I smile and say, “It’s just time for a change”. Ignore comments about the  stupidity courage it takes to do so given the state of the economy.  Try to remember that following your heart and using your common sense can be done at the same time. 

4:30  Go to clock out. Walk past the 100 prisoners coming and going to the chow hall on the runway. Most are respectful, I still get whistled at. REMEMBER WHY I AM LEAVING.