Being incarcerated offers an unusual gift for those who find themselves behind bars: time. There is an abundance of it! Modern American life is hectic. There simply isn’t time to do everything. There are demands on our time from work, family and community. When you are serving time, you receive the gift of time.
When you are incarcerated, there’s no social media. You can’t put off a task to check Twitter or Facebook. There are no cell phones for our bosses to call us on the weekend. The distractions of the 21st century evaporate behind prison walls. There can be a tremendous amount of idle time in an inmate’s life, unless he or she appreciates the gift of time.
Outside these walls, we put off education or job training because we would never find the time to concentrate on bettering ourselves. Now is our chance. This time could be wasted playing card games, watching television, or sleeping away the hours. We all have a choice to make. Incarceration can be catastrophic or it can be constructive.
When we are eventually released from prison, there certainly will be challenges. It is tough to find stable employment with a criminal history. How can we make the transition easier? How can we ease the stress of finding a job? We can do it by appreciating our gift of time and using it to our advantage.
We must recognize that time allows us to better ourselves by learning, growing, and developing into the people we want to be. I’ve often wondered what the corrections system is correcting, and I’ve come to the conclusion that there isn’t anything the system can do. It’s our personal choices regarding the use of our time that make the difference in our future.
We have been given an opportunity to hit the “Pause” and “Reset” buttons in our lives. There are no work demands. No one needs to be picked up from school. There are no errands to run. There are no bills to pay. There is no diaper to change. There is simply a wide expanse of time that demands to be filled. How we fill it determines how likely we are to avoid returning to crime in the future.
Use this opportunity to earn a high school diploma, a college degree, or learn a trade. We can develop marketable skills that will make us productive members of society. Only we, not the system, can change us from within. The way we choose to use our time will determine how prepared we are for a successful return to society, without the risk of recidivism.
Everyone’s time on Earth is limited. When some years must be spent in prison, that period feels like it’s being wasted. The only way to fight back, to make the best of this situation, is to recognize the time we have and use it to become men and women who are educated and prepared for life outside the walls. We must unwrap the gift of time and appreciate its tremendous value.
By C. M. Skeele