Preparedness for return to the community is paramount. Nearly everything I do is some form of preparation for a smooth and successful return to home and being a law-abiding, contributing member of the community.
Preparation for me includes preserving “normalcy” by avoiding “institutionalization”. What is “institutionalization”, you might wonder? It depends on individual perspective. Generally, I would describe it as “normalization” of aspects of the prison environment, and it’s demonstrated in beliefs, actions, and vocabulary. My personal view of it is similar along with consideration of some “insignificant” behaviors and beliefs to be “symptoms” of institutionalization.
Some people actively choose Institutionalization as a means of enduring the environment or survival. Institutionalization is rampant among the population, so it can seem like the “easy path”, a way to “fit in”. Some people evolve over time and become institutionalized progressively. A relatively reliable indicator of people who are not, or not AS, institutionalized, is to look at a person’s program participation. I feel like I am reflective of this, as I choose to be mindful and make a conscientious effort to avoid succumbing to institutionalization in any form.
So what does institutionalization look like, how does it present in someone, what are the “symptoms”? Personally, I consider prison-centric vocabulary a “gateway behavior” to institutionalization. Referring to roommates as “cellies”, rooms or quarters as “cells”, or meals as “chow”, are common examples. Behaviors seem to reflect deeper institutionalization and are more conspicuous. “FTP” or “FTF” tattoos (“F— The Police” or “F— The Feds”), and diminished observance of personal space (“crowding” others) could reflect behavioral institutionalization. Beliefs are less obvious and vary from “fairly mundane”, like hoarding common-area supplies like disinfectant, ice, etc., to more assertive, like “anti-cop” rhetoric or thinking or “I was set up or the Feds framed me”. These are all just a very small sampling of the various ways institutionalization affects people.
All in all, institutionalization in whatever form it takes is objectively a complication for transitioning to the community and returning to “normalcy” in everyday living. I don’t know what it takes to DE-institutionalize after returning home. I also don’t want to find out. I’m vigilant about preserving my “normalcy” and ability to transition to home life with minimal adjustment needed. That’s a key part of MY preparation.
Remorseful, humble, and empathetic. Today I choose these as strengths.