Journal Entry: Michael Kidwell-02/16/2024

Journal Entry

Turning “Doing Time” into self discovery.

There are some trials in life that really force you to dig deep and serving a Federal prison sentence is definitely one of them. I have found it incredibly difficult to write over the last two months. The institution I’m currently in has been going through a series of constant and repeating lockdowns. These lockdowns are 24 hrs…. a day in a 7×10 cell. We are only allowed out every three days for showers and no phone calls. For me, this series of lockdowns included my Wife’s Birthday, my birthday, and Christmas. It is hard to put into words how demoralizing it is not to be able to even make a phone call home for Christmas or to be confined to a cell for 12 days and worry about a loved one’s health and well-being. Add to that a lack of fresh air and sunshine and room to exercise and you have the makings for some very long very hard days.

What did I do you ask? Surely this kind of treatment is reserved for rule breakers and the worst inmates. Nope. Group punishment is the norm here and even though I choose to follow the rules to the letter I still receive the punishment. We are even punished for things that happened in other buildings.

While being locked in a cell all day may afford you plenty of time to write it is woefully short on inspiration. Now I have always prided myself on being optimistic and of a positive mindset. So when everything seems negative and everything, even the most basic rights and freedoms, have been taken away it takes a great force of will to dig deep inside yourself for inspiration. So after three months in I decided to review my Release Plan for fuel it fire my creativity. I want to make sure I am doing everything I am able to do to ensure success. This is one of the reasons preparing a Release Plan is so important. These federal correctional institutions by nature are designed to punish and take away. Many (like the one I’m in now) may suffer from staff shortages and a crumbling infrastructure. My current Institution has struggled over the last 2 weeks to keep the electricity on and provide meals. Recreation and Education are almost never opened.

Your Release Plan is your guide and gives you a waypoint when the unexpected happens. I Self surrendered to this institution with a plan of building a regular schedule that included working towards a college degree and finding a fulfilling job. Those hopes are out the window for a time so I am left with two choices:

  1. Sit idly and brood about how broken this system is or
  2. Figure out what I CAN do and make sure I’m doing it despite my surroundings.

My Release Plan reminds me of the fire I had coming into this sentence. It reminds me who I am outside of these walls and that fuels who I am inside.

If you are facing incarceration I encourage you to make a thoughtful Release Plan No matter where you are in your journey or how much time you are facing. Not only will it give stakeholders in your incarceration an idea of who you are it can be the thing that keeps a fire going inside you on the hard days. Be prepared to be flexible and adaptive and be prepared for things not to go your way. Be prepared for unfair group punishment and policies that make no sense. Be prepared for little to no support from the institution on your positive activities. Above all just be prepared. It will make the hard days ahead more bearable and help ensure you make the most of your time.