How to Cope in Prison

Once an inmate is in prison and has gone through an orientation process given by the facility, then comes the harsh reality of incarceration. It is very easy to become very depressed very quickly. Also, many people become bitter about the situation and try to vent their frustrations on the system by complaining and/or filing lawsuits.

Does this help? There is a famous Yiddish anecdote about a Jew and a non-Jew. The non-Jew asks the Jew, 'Why do Jews always answer a question with a question?' The Jew answers, 'Why not?' So, does it help, the answer is not, 'Will it hurt?' Yes, it can be counterproductive. There can be and are definitely legitimate complaints that need to be addressed first as a complaint and then, possibly, as a lawsuit. When a facility receives a legitimate complaint asked not for the sake of complaining but to resolve a problem, then there is a good chance that the problem will be resolved. For instance, during the High Holydays Jews are often scheduled to go to work in the prison. By formally complaining and explaining the idea that it is forbidden to work on Jewish Holydays, accommodations are almost always made.

Complaining and filing lawsuits because one is bitter can do the inmate more harm than good. Before complaining one should, as objectively as possible, determine if the complaint is from bitterness or is legitimate. There was an inmate who was sentenced to a minimum security prison camp. Once there, he was always finding something to complain about. The other inmates and the Rabbi tried to explain to him that he needed to understand where he was and that complaining all the time would end up being to his disadvantage. Eventually he was considered to be a security risk because of his behavior. He was shipped to a much higher security level facility. The things that he had in minimum security that he was complaining about do not exist in the higher security facility.

Most inmates realize that you cannot 'beat the system.' Excuse the pun, but they hold the 'key.' This, however, does not mean that an inmate should accept everything without questioning.

If one remembers that the only thing being imprisoned is the body, not the mind and soul, then one can rise above the physical limitations and hardships of incarceration.

There are many stories told about Czarist Russia and Jews being imprisoned. In these prisons Jews suffered under the worst imaginable circumstances.

What kept these Jews going?

These Jews endured phenomenal torture, but they kept their mind and faith. They did not succumb to the base level of their environment. Ultimately, people respect others who hold true to their convictions. As it says in the Psalms, chapter 85, verse 12 "Truth will grow from the ground".

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