by Son Nguyen
Our perceptions tend to change as we get older. When I rst got locked up in county jail, everyone pretty much knew I was going to be behind bars for a while because of the crime I committed.
Those who had more experience with being in the system advised me to “Do the time, don’t let the time do you.” I took this to mean Man Up and not let the system break me no matter what happens.
So when I came to prison with a life sentence I went along with what I was taught. Follow the prison code. Don’t associate with other races, act tough, stop caring, and show no fear.
That kind of teaching and mentality is used to separate people. It breeds mistrust and hatred.
It wasn’t until 10 years later when I was in the hole that I realize I got it completely wrong. I wasn’t doing time at all but I was letting it do me. I fell for the lies that are continually passed down to new individuals that enter the system. I had let prison turn me into someone I’m not. I saw that I had become institutionalized.
I didn’t like the person I’ve become so I chose to walk away from all the negativities. It wasn’t an easy decision. At rst, I was worried about what others might think but I’m glad I stuck to it.
Today, “doing time’ has a different meaning to me. It means to spend my time in prison in ways that would be bene cial to me and help me to be a better person. I decided to educate myself and socialize more with other races. That has opened up my mind and enabled me to relate to others. I start to understand that we are much more similar than different. If we all see that, we would respect and care for one another.