A Lesson My Cellmate Taught Me: Standing for Principles

By Christopher Zoukis

The other day my cellmate presented a situation for my review.  He explained that a certain person I regularly sit with in our housing unit’s day room had a bad reputation for some of his political and social beliefs.  While I challenged his opinion on the matter, after taking some time to reflect upon his statements, I realized that he was right.  By sitting by and allowing offensive discussions to be held around me, I was contributing to the problem.  By remaining quiet, I was not combating or showing my disproval of the topic, but providing my tacit approval for such offensive conversations to be had.  It’s this standing — or lack of standing — for principles which I’d like to touch on today.  Image courtesy www.sciencedirect.com

As a prisoner, I am sometimes surrounded by some who aren’t of the best character.  This isn’t to say that these are bad people — much like how I’m not a bad person — but that all of us in prison have the propensity to make stupid decisions and, most likely, have impulse control and conduct issues.  But even with these inherent problems in the incarcerated population, there are good people in prison, people who walk right, are honorable, and are generally stand-up guys.  Simply stated, with a little effort, worthwhile associates can be found.

Those inside prison need to do what we can to promote positive behaviors and dissuade negative ones.  We do this through positive reinforcement (e.g., verbally agreeing, clapping, and associating with others) and negative actions of stigmatization (verbally disagreeing, leaving, and not associating with others).  But in prison, the conversation often turns to the negative, or if not the negative, then those having the discussions tend to not be as decent as they could be.  After all, we are all in prison for breaking societal norms and mores.

Read More