“Experiencing trauma can change the way the world is viewed, and how we operate in that world. In the aftermath of trauma, we can change physically, emotionally and mentally. Left untreated, trauma multiplies in our communities, and seeps down from one generation to the next.”
Here is a little known fact about me – I once interned at a maximum security prison as a “peer counselor.” I was studying community mental health in college. To fulfill my requirements for graduation, I had to do four semesters of internship.
My first internship was at Planned Parenthood. I basically did intakes and assisted where ever I was needed.
My second internship was working as a teacher’s assistant for “at risk youths.” I really enjoyed that internship. I learned a lot, and it made me love the idea of teaching.
My third internship was at Green Haven Correctional Facility, which is an all-male maximum security prison in upstate New York. I was interning as a “peer counselor” in the pre-release center. This was so much more than just an internship – it was life changing.
I ran a domestic violence group and co-facilitated a sexual offenders group.
The whole experience was very eye-opening to say the least. I wasn’t scared either, even though my parents and my now husband (then boyfriend) were scared for my safety being in a prison.
In addition to working in the pre-release center, my mentor took me places most interns didn’t get to go – the gym, the hospital, the school and more.
My mentor also took me to a Victims Impact Group in our state capital. I was the ONLY regular person there. Everyone else were Police chiefs, prison wardens, politicians and others. I felt so “little” compared to everyone else. To my surprise, they kept asking ME on MY THOUGHTS about things. I was both shocked and on “cloud nine.”
My mentor was so impressed with my work in the prison that he nominated me for a special victims impact training out in California. Both him and my college advisor wrote me glorious recommendations. I was accepted into the program. Like a FOOL… I didn’t go. I had just started dating my now husband, and I didn’t want to be away from him for two months. Looking back, I should have gone. It’s one of the biggest mistakes of my life.
My goal was to become a Forensic Psychologist. I wanted to profile criminals.
Interning in a prison, I got to learn a lot about those that were incarcerated. I talked to them and heard their stories. My mentor even let me read their files to see how much some of them would down play their crimes. For example, one guy told me he broke into an apartment and stole money and jewelry. He did MORE than just that. He also viciously attacked an elderly woman during the burglary and murdered her.
There are some criminals that need to be locked up and the key thrown away. However, I truly believe that some people who are incarcerated are NOT monsters, but rather people who made poor life choices. I don’t necessarily believe that all those who are incarcerated are innately “bad.” I think many either learned bad behaviors due to their environment, or something else.
There is a documentary that is available on streaming platforms (Amazon, YouTube, iTunes…) called The Prison Within that sets out to make people see criminals in a different light. The film does not mean to make their crimes seem less serious than they are, but rather the film explores the reasons behind the crimes.
Many people who commit crimes due so because of some kind of trauma in their lives. Trauma is often the catalyst for the cycle of crime and violence.
The film’s main theme is “hurt people hurt people.” They do so because they cannot process what is causing them pain.
Throughout the documentary, viewers are introduced to several incarcerated men, as well as people who facilitate groups that help the inmates to dig deep down inside themselves to identify what trauma in their lives could have lead to the crimes that they committed.
I found it interesting that many of the men had legitimate trauma in their life that as an outsider, I can see how they could have caused the crimes that they committed. They are not evil men, but rather something in their lives caused them to make poor life decisions. Sometimes their crimes were accidents and not intentional.
I found this documentary fascinating. It also made me wish I took that training and continued with my education. Even though it’s been 25 years since I interned in the prison (I interned for two semesters), I am still interested in working in a prison. I could see myself facilitating one of these special groups. Sigh… I guess that ship has sailed.
Whether you are the victim of a crime, or know someone who was, you should check out this documentary. You might see things in a different light.
If you would like to learn more about this film, visit ThePrisonWithin.org. The organization can also be found on Facebook and Twitter. Those links are found at the bottom of the website.
Below is the film’s trailer for your enjoyment.
*I received a free screener in order to do this review. There was no compensation. The opinions expressed are my own and not influenced in any way.