Getting from Monday to Tuesday: Coping with Long-term Incarceration

By Patrice L. Daniels

From PHN Issue 25, Summer 2015

Knowledge of Self: A better understanding of who I am (and am not) has given me a sense of security and confidence when facing whatever life throws at me—as well as whatever I decide to embark upon.

Sprituality: Nurturing and feeding the part of me that believes there’s a divine methodology to all of existence gives me a moral/behavioral template from which to operate. Spirituality contains a component of hope and redemption. Without death, there’d be no need for religion (on a certain level)—a part of me needs to believe that there is something after this.

Purpose: I have a clearly defined purpose that I actively live my life carrying out. Purpose gives me an incentive to live.

Total Acceptance and Responsibility: I senselessly, regrettably, remorsefully took a human life. An act I had no right to do. The consequences that come along with that choice in June of 1994 are of my own doing. I earned this life sentence.

Serenity: Trying to always remain focused on that which I can actually control. Once we get into the realm of trying to control others or external factors, we are setting ourselves up for a world of trouble.

Realism: Having clearly defined, realistic expectations.

Transcendence: Not allowing my physical conditions to define me. We are all more than the sum of our circumstances, errors and mistakes.

Support: No man is an island. I have a tremendous support group. My immediate family members and a plethora of friends help me to navigate the reality of life imprisonment with no parole. An extension of the support apparatus is socialization/interaction with others.

Therapy: Both in a group setting as well as individually.

Creative Writing: An opportunity to express myself as well as vent, cleanse, purge, and opine. I often hope to inspire others in some way.

Music/Television: These forms of entertainment provide me escape.

Physical Exercise: Maintains my health and helps with sleeping at night as well as stress management.

Proper Diet: This aids in being able to function better throughout the day, in particular with decision making. I get at least 6 ½ to 7 hours of sleep nightly.

A Healthy Sex Life: In as much as that’s possible in prison. Humans are sexual beings, so that’s a part of us that cannot be ignored, especially when it comes to coping and functioning.

Attainment of Book Knowledge: I have become an “organic intellectual.” It has shielded me in many ways. Knowledge is still power, even in prison.

True Freedom: This poignant quote from Viktor Frankl has aided me for years: “Everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms—to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way.” This is not an illusory concept. True freedom is internal. You can be a non-prisoner and still be “enslaved.” You don’t have to be locked up to be in “prison.”

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