What Do You Do With Your 86,400 Seconds?

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Then there are the individuals we call "lifers," who are never going anywhere but another facility or the men who are doing "hard time." To them, from what I see, they give up on life easily or feel they

[Voices Behind The Wall]


Prison is a revolving door for most, and a wake-up call for very few.  Yet it’s still a situation of “do you see the glass of water half full or half empty?”  

Do you become a pessimist or optimist when an obstacle comes between you and your goals?  For me, this prison is a wake-up call.  I see the glass of water half full and I’m definitely an optimist, to say the least. However, in prison, there’s the good, bad and the ugly.

The Department of Correction has provided educational, vocational, drug programs, religious services and even anger management opportunities for the inmates behind these walls.

I’ve now told you about the so-called “good” that goes on behind the walls – now let me inform you about the bad and ugly.   I know you would like to believe that the Black and Latino would stick together and overcome the oppression as well as the modern-day slavery that’s going on behind these walls, but that isn’t the case here.   It’s more of a free for all – every man for himself type of situation. Don‘t get me wrong though, for every five stuck and stagnated man, there’s one brother who’s intent on uplifting his situation.  With that said, nine and a half times out of ten, under these circumstances, men in here only respect violence and disrespect.  Sad, right? Because you would think any man in general who comes to prison would want to change for the better for self and family. But this is not the case from what I see.

Then there are the individuals we call "lifers," who are never going anywhere but another facility or the men who are doing "hard time."  To them, from what I see, they give up on life easily or feel they don’t have anything to live for. That’s when bad becomes worse and things get very ugly. Envy is at an all time high, and Lord knows what that brings in the penal system.  

Honestly, to get a good insight of what’s really going on “behind these walls” nowadays will be like trying to figure out what I’m attempting to understand every day.  All in all, this is a different world that I’m not willing to get accustomed to. I learned the basics to survive and leave here with a sane mind.

For the youths who are coming behind me, and the ones who preceded me, life “behind the wall” is unreal. Being home, taking care of family, making an honest living, is life; and the true meaning of reality. Ask any standup man or woman would they take back all the wrong doings that landed them in the penal system, and they would and will tell you "definitely." Let’s build a higher echelon. So bare with me when I say this to my sisters and brothers.

A close friend and I talked about the “Bank of Time” and it goes a little something like this:

What if you had a bank that credited your account each morning with $86,400 that carried over no balance from day to day; allowed you to keep no cash in your account; and every night canceled whatever part of that amount you failed to use during the day?  

What would you do? Draw all that loot out, right? Well we do have a bank like that, however, it’s call “TIME”. Every morning it credits us with 86,400 seconds.  It gives no balance though, obviously. It allows no overdraft. Each day it opens a new account with anyone that’s among the living.

Each night it burns the records of the day. If you fail to use the day’s deposit, then that’s a loss you and I must take. Ain’t no coming back from that; no drawing against “tomorrow”. We could only live in the present, on today’s deposit.  

Personally, I stress this so much; but if you are doing anything that’s of no benefit to you or anyone close, then it’s unworthy of serious attention. It’s labeled frivolous. That is what these prisons are built off of my sisters and brothers, and if you summed up everything as well, then spend that $86,400 on something worth your while.

I can’t really say much for prison because there isn’t much to say from the beginning.  It’s as if you’re put on "pause" literally, while everything in the outside world is on "play." Being “Behind the Wall” is depressing, but there are still opportunities.  

Where would you want to make these opportunities happen -- “Behind the Wall” or in reality?  You choose.


Colson Jean Louis is currently incarcerated. This is first in a series of commentaries The Black Star News will publish from voices behind bars


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