The following was posted in my PRM Facebook group. I had to share ( with permission, of course!) with you all….
Via Keri Driver “My husband is an inmate at Avenal State Prison in Avenal, CA. He has managed to stay in school through correspondence courses despite trips to the “hole” and adverse transfers. He wrote this paper as one of his English 102 papers. I wanted to share so maybe the public would look at prisoners in a different light.”
The Reflections of an Inmate
By Thomas E. Driver
When members of society hear, see, or use the word “inmate”, it most often carries the image as being f lesser worth or value. The stereotypical depiction is negative, often fueling contempt, judgment, scorn and rejection from the majority of the members of society.
That is, until it enters a person’s personal life. The common response towards the word inmate is condemnation, persecution and rejection. Once a friend, family member or themselves lands in lock-up, everything changes. Now the word inmate becomes a real person, having value and worth. Previous judgments and cries for the “lock ‘em up and throw away the key” type sentencing now seems overkill, appalling, very unrealistic, unjust and even inhumane.
I am inmate Driver E30443. The word “inmate” is like a heavy burden I must carry out into society. My desire is to encourage a change in how society defines those labeled as inmates. What I hope to encourage is how the value, worth and wisdom of inmates has the potential to prevent others from making the same mistakes and help families better understand why criminal behaviors develop to begin with. To one day discover the automatic response to the word inmate is to include the recognition of potential knowledge, experience and wisdom. That consideration for the possible positive changes, growth and maturity that rehabilitation can produce is given. The label of inmate also has the ability to instill the perspective that this person has potential value, worth and possible experience and wisdom to offer. I desire for society to remember that most inmates did not choose to aspire to become an inmate or criminal in their youth. Many members in society only differ from inmates because they were never caught before changing their behaviors, had influential connections or enough money to avoid the label. Life events greatly influence and lead people to live such negative lives.
Inmate Driver E30443 is also, Tommy, the youngest son of the very respected and loved couple of Robert and Mickey Driver. The lucky man that is married to the amazing and wonderful Keri Driver who sees her husband as just that; her husband, not an inmate. Driver is also the little brother, the favorite uncle and the loved father. Along with his wife Keri, he shares hopes and dreams for the chance to be of great worth to the majority of members of society. The recognition he desires is not for him but for society to have to undoubtedly recognize the potential of any person, to become a valuable, contributing member of society.
Inmate Driver E30443 – the victim of childhood abuses that as a result of, became a drug and alcohol user, that as a result of became a criminal that resulted in him becoming an inmate. Now unlike society seems to believe, the results of the effects in their lives that lead to becoming an inmate do not stop once this label is reached. These changes can continue and the possibility these changes may be positive in nature are very likely. As a result of being an inmate Driver has discovered how to face and deal with the effects of abuse in a positive, healthy manner. He now has the knowledge, experience and wisdom to help youngsters who are currently facing the same effects he had to face and now because of being an inmate has learned the skills needed to help the youngsters and their families so they better understand the effects from their child’s trauma(s). Inmate Driver is a wealth of knowledge and experience that could potentially benefit hundreds of thousands of others, possibly even being a major cause for the decrease in criminal activities.
Inmate Driver E30443 is also the certified welder that earned blue ribbon awards at the Sacramento County Fair along with being the fabricator of numerous structures in or around historical buildings. Driver is also the Olympic hopeful and sixth in state wrestling champion in 1986 for Washington State. Certified in air conditioning and refrigeration, Driver can also construct solar energy panels. Certification was also earned in vocational landscaping producing numerous positive articles and letters about how to improve the landscapes and environments he has access to. Inmate Driver is also known as the graduate student who earned and Associates in Social Sciences degree from Lassen Community College receiving Presidential honors for maintaining a 3.8 GPA while also facilitating or attending numerous self-help programs, often spending hours trying to instill positive changes in his peers.
Inmate means to me: a man with hard work ethics, pride, humility, courage and wisdom. A positive influence, leader and example to not only fellow inmates but to correctional staff and members of society as a whole. A man, that while serving justice for his past criminal behaviors, took advantage of the opportunities to learn and change and become a law abiding, honest and respectable man with values, principals and standards that are very positive. Making him a valuable asset to society.
I am Inmate Driver E30443, call me Tom or Tommy. I was incarcerated twenty-five years ago for shooting and killing a man that threatened my life and held me captive at gun point. I am no longer the immature criminal, liar, thief and disappointment I was back then. Today I am an example of successful rehabilitation. I am honest, responsible and hopeful. I am the son my parents are now proud of for my positive changes and growth. I am the husband my wife calls “home”, her “life and breath” as I too see and feel she is to me. I am the rehabilitated father that pleads with his son to not make the same mistakes in life that I once did. I pray the wisdom and experiences I share will give my son Joey the tools he needs to avoid the regrets and negative experiences of bad choices and enjoy a wonderful and successful life. Inmate: man/woman, son/daughter, husband/wife, father/mother, brother/sister, uncle/aunt, potential person to heal our children and our families. Source of wealth of knowledge, experience, and wisdom viewed by many as priceless because of the potential benefit to society. Inmate Driver E30443, who am I to you?