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.