Change Is Only a Thought Away

by Jay Goodman

As I look around at my fellow prisoners, I feel many different emotions. There are some I feel sorry for, others I look at as friends, and have shared my life story with them. And I have learned not to use the word hate, but there are some I dislike because I don’t see any good in them. I am sure there’s people in here who someday will read my book and be angry at some of the stuff I’ve written. Some I am sure will think I am wrong about how I look at things. And that’s all right because I understand people look at things differently, my goal is not to belittle the people in here. I just wanted to give everyone an opportunity to open your mind and see that you can make great changes even though you are incarcerated. It’s amazed me Throughout the years to see how many people come to prison and conform to prison life, and even worse, Prison thinking. As the old saying goes, they took to it like a fish in water.

For me, when I came to prison, I knew immediately that I would never conform to prison life. I understood by doing so that there was a high possibility that I would become institutionalized. Second, I realize that I would never allow myself to act or think like most people do in here. I have spent a good portion of my life being a criminal. I was never a person who followed the pack. So, coming to prison I seen quickly that I did not care for the pack thinking. From my point of you it made no sense. I knew from the start that I had a lot of years to do, so I had to make a choice how I would spend these years.

I knew if I follow the pack, more than likely I would not accomplish anything. So I sit down and made some plans for myself. I also started taking a serious look at my fellow prisoner. I actually started paying close attention to what they did every day. I listen to how they talked to each other, how they believe that prisoners should conduct themselves. I have never understood how people come to prison and believe they have to live to prison thinking.

I remember as a young kid seeing movies about people in prison, and watching how they talked and acted. Then as I got older, I met people who went to prison and listen to their stories. My outlook on the situation was what a bunch of followers. Why would anyone come to prison and conform to prison ways, and prison thinking? Why would any man change who you are and become something you were not before you came here? Why would you allow another man’s thinking and believe to become yours? Does it make any sense to become something that will lead you to become a less version of yourself? Wouldn’t it be better to do something that That would lead you to become the best version of yourself? Because no matter what you decide to do in life, you will never become the best version of yourself by following the masses. Especially the masses inside prison.

Remember, the people who run these prisons allow the shit that goes on in here for a reason. They want all of the madness and chaos because believe me, if they didn’t, they put a stop to it. They understand that if the prison is divided, then there’s no hope for unity. If prisoners could learn to put this trash prison ways and thinking behind them, we could make so many changes it would be unreal. But first we must change, we have to look at who we are, not what prison expects us to become. Look at how prisons have always been run. Look at the way the inmates have thought and conducted themselves in the past. What has that accomplished for us as a whole? Have the prisoners from the past up until now done better or worse? I mean it’s easy to see that prison thinking has destroyed many people’s lives. Sometimes I have wondered if I am the only one who sees this? After almost 17 years I have never met one person yet who has said to me, this prison thinking is stupid, look how it’s holding us back. I have met many people after they’ve been in prison for many years say, God I’m tired of this shit. I have met many prisoners whose reached their breaking point, but not smart enough to pull back from the prison thinking. I was talking to a guy that just got in the cell Block I live in. He’s been here about a week. I asked him one morning, “how are you doing?” And he started telling me that he’s only been here a week, and he doesn’t like what he’s saying. I then asked what was happening? And he said, “that’s a white guys need to get together and get a speaker, that we don’t have any say so in what’s being watched on our TV.” I then said, “that there was a white guy who has a remote if he wanted to watch something.” I didn’t say anything for a minute. Then I just said, “anytime you want to watch something just tell him, and he will change it for you.” I could tell he was thinking about something. He then said, “The white should still have a speaker.” I said, “there’s nothing really going on in here, we get along with the other races.” Well, he said. What about that guy? And pointed at a white dude who is not like too much by others. Then I realized it didn’t have anything to do with the TV, or the guy he was talking about. It was his mindset. Like I was talking about earlier, some people have it in their mind that prison is supposed to be run by this code. I am sure someone put it in his mind that we have to conduct ourselves by the strict prisoner code. And even to prove my point. After I showed him that the whites do you have a remote for this TV, and even though there’s no problem with any of the other races. He said it in his mind we still need a speaker.

This guy has been here one week, and he told me that he doesn’t like what he saying. I cannot help but think to myself, what the hell are you talking about. You’ve been here one freaking week. There hasn’t even been an argument. No issues, no problems. But you don’t like what you’re saying? It’s guys like this dude, that haven’t been to a place where people are getting stabbed and murdered on a regular basis. They don’t have any idea what it’s like to live constantly under stress. They don’t know what it’s like to have survived riots, or being stabbed. And they especially don’t know how lucky they are to be in a prison that’s laid-back. The crazy thing is, it’s easy for someone like this guy to meet somebody who thinks likes he does. Together they’ll sit around bitching and complaining about everything they believe is wrong. But, just like this guy, they have it in their mind that prison is supposed to be this place that Hass to be run by some kind of strict prison code.

Sometimes I wonder if these men can ever think on their own? And truthfully, the answer to that is no. They come to a place like this and instead of taking advantage of the situation, they do nothing with their time. They complain like this guy, I don’t like what I’m seeing, he went on also telling me everything he didn’t like. Not once did he say anything positive. Like I hardly know this guy, but I do know his cellie isn’t too bad of a man. His cellie works all day so he has his cell to himself. He came to a good sub walk where there isn’t any racial problems. When he got here last week he was blessed with soap, shampoo, toothpaste, coffee, and other things he needed. We are not on lockdown because of Covid, he had a chance to go to commissary right away. I have only known him a week, and have only talked with him a handful of times, but I can easily see all of the blessings he’s already received. But he chooses to only focus on what he perceives in his mind. And that focus is all negative. Even though my gut instincts tell me that this guy is not a bad dude, I can see he has a mindset of a very negative person. And as I have said before, it takes just a as much energy to think positive, as it does to think Negative. Each person gets to choose which way they look at life. Negative people have an outlook of gloom and doom. No matter how things may be going they tend to only see the bad. A lot of it has to do with their thoughts, in their mind everything going on around them isn’t good. It’s like with the man I was just talking about. Instead of thinking, I don’t like what I’m seeing, he could’ve been saying, damn, I am really grateful that when I got here everyone help me out. I am also lucky I got here in time to make commissary. Plus, I was blessed to move in the cell Block, it’s really laid-back.

Conforming to prison ways, and prison thinking is only going to hold you back. Learn to always look at things in a positive way. When negative thoughts come, let them go, and turn those thoughts to something that will help you grow into the best version of yourself. Change is only a thought away.

The Attorneys
  • Francisco Hernandez
  • Daniel Hernandez
  • Phillip Hall
  • Rocio Martinez