Prison Wives ID - Don-Life after Prison
Prison Wives ID -
Don-Life After Prison
Although, five months has lapsed since my release from prison, I still find today, I am on the outside looking in.  I am not, by any stretch of the imagination institutionalized; on the contrary, it is more I have been traumatized by my experience.  No matter how hard I try to shake the feeling of being incarcerated.  I can still hear the cell doors slamming, smell the anxiety, fear, apprehension, loathing, too many emotions to express in a minimal amount of time.  More than the emotional aspects, I can reflect on the treatment I received from scores of correctional officers over the years, with their scrutinizing glares and better than thou attitudes, and sharp tongues.  
These were officers pending court cases for spousal abuse, drunk driving, minor assaults, you name it, regardless, and they had the audacity to judge me.  I have never witnessed so many unprofessionals holding professional jobs in my life.  These are individuals who should be setting an example; however, they are no better than the inmates they watch over.  When confronted by one of these officers, I would tell myself, “just let it go”,“this won’t last forever”, nevertheless, a surge of rage would build inside, until I was fearful of what I might do, if I did not walk away.
Have you ever felt alone in a crowd?  I was in a prison with over 2,000 inmates and yet the majority of the time I felt alone.  I remember one day in particular, I was sitting on the upper yard at the “Walls”, a maximum-security prison in Jefferson City, Missouri, gazing out over the 40-foot wall looking down at the street outside the prison.  I remember thinking, “All of that activity and not a single thought being given to those of us on the inside of the wall they were walking past.” What a truly lonely feeling that encompassed.  I went back to my cell after the yard closed and put a small tattoo on the upper left portion of my chest, which was simply a set of bars with the initials M.I.A. written.  Later one of the guys ask me if I had been a prisoner of war.  I laughed and said, "still am".  I went on to explain that the M.I.A. meant “Missing in America,” because that is what I strongly felt inside those walls that day on the yard.
It is not my intention to dwell on that lifestyle any longer, but for the sake of wives, girlfriends, mothers, fathers, sisters, brothers, and friends who still have someone you love trapped behind prison walls, I just want to say, it is not an easy life.  Many times, feelings are not shared with family and friends on the “outside”, while other times everything may be brought to the forefront.
I want to share the living conditions of the average inmate.  Just imagine a local police officer going to an undisclosed town and picking out a total stranger, (race is not your option), then bringing that person back to your home and informing you that the two of you will be living in your bathroom for ex amount of time.  You will eat, sleep, use the bathroom facilities, watch tv,  and shower in this room.  If lucky, you can have a couple of your acquaintances stop by and chat in your bathroom/kitchen/bedroom/living quarters, of course your cellmate will want to have a couple of his or her friends stop by also, so now there are six of you in that bathroom. Imagine that day after day, week after week, month after month, year after year.  If you can imagine all of this, then you have just experienced a minute portion of the living condition your loved one or friend is experiencing. 
Perhaps this can explain why he or she may not always be in the best of moods.  I realize many times you blame yourself, or feel as if you have done something to make them feel this way.  I have two words to share with you concerning this thought process,“STOP IT!”
Understandably there is a tremendous amount of pressure placed upon you being with someone who is incarcerated, coupled with your day-to-day adversities, however, please consider what the person in prison is going through and for your sanity sake, stop blaming yourself for everything that goes wrong in your relationship.  The majority of the time it has nothing to do with your relationship, as much as it does the circumstances of being in prison.  The same way you could never actually know what prison life entails, incarcerated men and women tend to not understand what you are going through in the “free world”.
When I was released from prison, I had no idea what my wife had to go through with the bills, visits expenditures, taking care of my needs while in prison.  May God praise each of you for the selfless sacrifices you are making for your loved ones in prison. My hat is off to all of you.
I would like to share my greatest fear since being released. "Returning!”  That without a doubt haunts my everyday life.  I do not have a drivers license currently, not that I don’t know how to drive, but I am apprehensive of what events might occur should I get behind the wheel of a vehicle.  I know the day will come when I will, however, for the moment, I don’t feel comfortable with the idea.  I do not like leaving the house often because I am still not sure how to deal with people on the “outside”.  In prison the rules were clear, there was a ‘code of conduct’ amongst the inmates.  Should anyone break one of these there was a certain criteria to adhere to in order to handle the situation.  In the ‘free world’, such behavior is not tolerated.  Therefore, I feel the need to obtain a solid grasp on human behavior out here before I associate too much with the public.  This probably sounds insane to most of you and understandably, so, at times I feel that perhaps I might be borderline psychotic.  I still have dreams of going back to prison that are so vivid at times; I do not even discuss them with my wife.
Life on the outside is nothing like I had imagined.  I have yet to acquire gainful employment, due to my felony record.  I understand now why there is no prison reform. Why would there be if once a person is released every door slams shut in their face concerning employment opportunities?  I try not to become to downtrodden by people who do not want to hire someone who has been in prison.  I find this difficult at times for all I want is a fair shake at returning to some semblance of normalcy.  It is hard to be a productive citizen when the world I left so many years ago has somehow forsaken me. I have paid any debt I owed and more and NOW I just want to move forward with my life. 
Currently I am a fulltime college student with a 3.83 GPA, on the Dean's List.  I plan to continue my education,  I am working towards earning my Masters degree.  It is my desire to become a certified Substance Abuse Counselor and work with trouble teens.  I hope to be able to detour others from the path, which originally led me to a prison cell.  This is something no one can take from me in the ‘free world’.
I hope that this has helped at least some of you understand a little more clearly not only what it is like on the ‘inside’, but also how difficult it can be on the ‘outside’.  Thank you for your time in reading this. You are each in my prayers for a happier tomorrow.
Don Benson
        Don't let your circumstances
 interfer with your dreams.
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