Jomo shared a quote from Waking up the Dragon, in which a Vietnamese leader once said,
It has been said that prison is a microcosm of the streets, and- to a certain extent, this is true. The status of contemporary society outside of prison is, in many ways, reflected in the culture inside.
“The 1960′s were a time of a lot of vibrant activity- in the African American community, Hispanic community, on campuses, and so on. Beginning with the sit-in, which began in North Carolina, 1960. We don’t see so much of that today, we just don’t, so I don’t think it’s surprising that we don’t see that much of it in prisons either.” … “It’s easy if you’re incarcerated, if you’re in prison, to get discouraged, to be alienated, feel there really isn’t much you can do about it. The whole thing is designed to strip you of any sense that you have power, to disempower you.” -Tigar
“They’ll replicate their own social interactions, but the ways in which they would do it would also be profoundly influenced by the pressures that the dominant society imposes on them.” -Tigar
The differences that these authoritative pressures create between the outside and the inside is a tenuous balance between chaos and control.
“Prisons have mechanisms of internal social control that are enforced by other prisoners. Prisoner on prisoner violence is a fact of life and it is not demonstrably, or at this time evidence that it is always unwelcome.” – Tigar [audio:http://sites.duke.edu/docst110s_01_s2011_kgd3/files/2011/04/Tigar6.mp3|titles=Tigar6]
“There are extreme cases of inmate-on-inmate violence, and based on community, based on your racial identity, based on your ethnicity- there are all sorts of groupings that take place, right? And there is a hierarchy. There is an internal discipline. So if you’re doing time and you need to establish your own boundaries, and you do that in different ways. Either you join one of these groups, you have financial wherewithal in your commissary account- you can buy protection. Trading cigarettes and candy and the other things they’re trading. You can get someone to do your laundry… That socialization process is not one that the prison officials often have the power or interest in trying to influence.” – Tigar [audio:http://sites.duke.edu/docst110s_01_s2011_kgd3/files/2011/04/Tigar7.mp3|titles=Tigar7]
“They tell you, going to prison- you see nothing, you know nothing, you borrow nothing, you take nothing. And you survive.” – Jomo
On the importance of keeping in touch with your people, Jomo remarked “they won’t lose you then, see they actually lose you in the prison system, you’re a number anyways, they’ll lose you.” “That’s what kept me alive… they don’t lose me.” (Jomo)
This atmosphere stunts the development human relationships and communication within prison. This culture makes it difficult for inmates to cooperate with one another or organize, which makes them weaker as a population and easier to control.
“It is this crazy idea, this idea of social control- every argument made for instruments of social control automatically has credibility. And arguments about how mechanisms of social control might impinge on our protected freedoms, protected rights, and that maybe we should reconsider, get short shrift.” – Tigar [audio:http://sites.duke.edu/docst110s_01_s2011_kgd3/files/2011/04/Tigar4.mp3|titles=Tigar4]
“You don’t know nothing, you don’t see nothing, you don’t hear nothing, you don’t take nothing nobody, you don’t borrow nothing, that’s the whole thing you go there with,” “So you don’t talk to nobody, you don’t know who to trust,” “So this Breaking Barriers program was the first program that actually talked about things that prisoners can relate to, how to talk to you. Because it’s hard for a prisoner to know how to talk to a person, a everyday person, everyday life.” – Jomo
“So naturally most prison system you know, make more money, do more if they have a smooth operation. Because a prison can only get paid if it’s operating smoothly. So they can’t allow one prisoner to upset, or disrupt the operation of a prison. So you’re damn right, they don’t want that to ever happen again. So that’s why they’re willing to listen.” – Jomo
Another key difference between prison and street culture is access to educational resources and the time to utilize them.
“Most of the people from the outside think that prison somehow is in cave, in lockdown. But actually a prisoner has more time to read and study, he looks at the finer thing, he looks at the ground, from the ant all the way up. To grains of sand, and all- he understands, you know, that the piles of sand on the beach, that there’s no two grains alike. Because he has time to look at it. That’s all he has time to do is do time. It ain’t a matter of he’s left out.” “We find that most of the people who you know, in the street world, is educated, they educated from a book. Now they educated from a computer. But I don’t know where the hell they think information comes from on the computer, the information in the damn book. It’s like they think it comes from somewhere else, space or somewhere. It’s those grass-root level people who bust the rocks, you know what I mean, who build the houses, who take the whippings, is the people who actually put the world, the planet, the place together, by force. You know, so, it ain’t that you don’t know, it’s you don’t know how to communicate it. And so that’s what Breaking Barriers does, is create a way that we can communicate to other people where you can understand the world and life from my point of view, from the inside out instead of outside in.” - Jomo
“One of the things that’s fascinating about prison, is that there are people in there who are intelligent and thoughtful, but have been kind of running the streets— either involved in a criminal life style or working too hard to support themselves or whatever— that didn’t actually read books. So when they got to prison, books like Autobiography of Malcolm X by themselves were politicizing. And so you then had people like Jomo in there who read the books, and people would read those books and then have questions like ‘well what should we do?’” – Elizabeth [audio:http://sites.duke.edu/docst110s_01_s2011_kgd3/files/2011/04/ElizabethClip8.mp3|titles=ElizabethClip8]
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