The New New Year’s
Every December we bullshit ourselves that our habits aren’t really who we are. That’s all resolutions are: promises to be the selves we think we really would be if we weren’t bogged down with daily life.
So it follows that someone who’s doing everything right shouldn’t need a resolution. Resolutions are for sinners, the imperfect, the screw-ups.
Which is why it’s kind of shocking that more women in here don’t make more resolutions after Christmas. Maybe they don’t make any decisions on self-improvement because they don’t control their surroundings and the usual resolutions like eating better or exercising more aren’t even a possibility for them. Self-determination does require a little autonomy and there’s not too much of that here.
Of course, New Year’s resolutions are promises a woman makes to indebt herself to herself. And many inmates don’t think they owe themselves anything worthwhile, so they’d rather stay in the black and stay the same. Improving themselves for their own sake would require them to value themselves in a way they never have.
But they’ll make promises – empty ones – to indebt themselves to others. Every parole hearing is flooded with resolutions. I’ma (contraction for ‘I’m gonna’) go to meetings, stay clean, quit boostin’ (shoplifting), get a job, stay away from him/her.
Men and women make promises to these three strangers who have the power to let them out a little bit early. When they talk about prison’s being the “new Jim Crow” everyone thinks it’s about the fact that inmates work for so little. What they must mean is the way that inmates will improve themselves – if only in words – for someone else but not for themselves. For you, Massah, I’ll be good. I’ve heard these promises of better behavior outside the context of an early release; the performance just isn’t the same when nothing’s at stake.
But when they can sell themselves for earlier release, they are the most convincing, outwardly resolute people you’ll ever find. If you think good intentions multiply before you toss the last page of your calendar, you’ve never seen someone in prison make a bid for early release. In here, the parole board is the new New Year’s.
New Year’s the saddest part of the holidays for me. Knowing that circumstance limits how much we can improve ourselves, realizing that women here don’t improve themselves for themselves but only for the Man muddies up my clean slate. On New Year’s, everyone on the outside is figuring out ways to get better while I, in prison, realize that few of us ever will. The way I feel on the first day of the year is probably half the reason why I refuse to go before the board. I’ll stay inside this place so I won’t owe anyone my progress.
THREE IDEAS IN CRIMINAL JUSTICE REFORM FROM DECEMBER 21 – 27, 2015
Teresa Giudice discharges from Danbury FCI two days before Christmas. And then receives a $90,000.00 Lexus as a holiday gift from her husband, despite an outstanding tax bill of over $500,000. It doesn’t look like anyone learned any lesson from this whole both-parents-going-to-jail thing.
Robert Downey, Jr. received a pardon from California Governor Jerry Brown on Christmas Eve. Because Downey can already vote as a convicted felon in California, all the pardon will allow him to do is serve on a jury and legally own a firearm. A pardon isn’t a reprieve anymore; it’s an award.
The University of California system decided to divest $30 million from private prison corporations. It barely makes a difference to the private prison management companies and the state’s university system. Is symbolism the next best thing to making a difference?