Journal Entry: Michael Kidwell-05/08/2024

Journal Entry

“The New Kid”

Today marks the six-month point of my sentence. Adjusting to life in prison can not be easy for anyone but some seem to take to it quicker than others. I’m Others. If you are anything like me, when you see a broken system you immediately see ways to fix it. Maybe, like me, you tend to see everything in the context of a business and can clearly see what it needs to succeed. For those of you that think this way like I do, prison will be a series of broken systems limping along on outdated norms and it will be frustrating, sometimes infuriating, and often sad.

I started my sentence with a fantastic release plan that Michael and his team helped me build. Coupled with my can-do attitude, and a willingness to seize every opportunity to work towards release I figured I would be on top of the world again in no time….. Then I spent 4.5 of the last six months going through various phases of lockdowns, partial lockdowns, canceled programs, programs that no longer exist, and general disarray. I have even spent a fair amount of time without electricity. Yep, you read that right. I am in an aging institution that was once a Medium-security prison with a crumbling infrastructure. This is a “Converted Low” Basically meaning they have so many Low designated people and nowhere to put them that they just put us in a medium-security prison and re-name it a “Low II” The only thing low about it is the AIC’s ( That’s the new B.O.P. jargon for us – Adults In Custody The term Inmate is now considered insulting)

Before Self Surrendering -like a lot of you will – I went over a million scenarios in my mind. How will guards speak to me? How often will I suffer the indignity of pat-downs and strip searches? will anyone come visit me? Will I have to fight for my cornbread? All jokes aside I could not foresee what awaited me. Group punishment imposed constantly, being locked in a cell with no electricity sometimes for days. I did not foresee the rampant drug use. I also did not realize I was being sent to a prison where 75% of the population speaks only Spanish. I was not prepared for the lack of opportunity or the indifference of the system around me. I’ve had to fight for every gain and every scrap of hope. Opportunities are all self-made here and you’ll have to fight to make them. Excellence is not encouraged or recognized.
I’m not telling you all this to discourage you. I am warning you. Do not expect the institution you are designated to provide anything besides used clothes, meals and a bunk. Do not expect to find deeply enriching programs. I’m not saying they don’t exist in other prisons somewhere but from all the conversations I’ve had with other AIC’s they are the exception and not the norm. Prepare yourself! Working on a Release Plan before you are even sentenced may seem strange but it is one of the most important things you can do to prepare yourself! Make a reading list, get newspaper and magazine subscriptions started, get pen pals lined up. Making your time count inside these walls is 100% up to you.

At six months I can’t say I’m well adjusted but I do have a routine that includes plenty of reading both fiction and non-fiction, daily exercise, regular phone calls home, and a job I enjoy. For me adjusting has meant seeing this broken system and making a vow to dedicate my post-sentence efforts to justice reform. This system is broken and I can’t fix it from here but if enough of us take the time and reach back to help the next person then maybe together we can make some real lasting changes. See you on the other side.