This week’s blog post is about how prisoners spend their time behind bars.We get a lot of questions on this topic here Prison InsightsRather than reminisce about my time in prison nearly ten years ago, I thought I would contact a current prison inmate and ask her to answer this question.
This week’s guest blogger is Mistie Vance, who is currently serving a 20-year sentence at the Chillicothe Correctional Center in Chillicothe, Missouri, for manslaughter and armed crimes. She has been in prison for more than a decade and is not expected to be released on parole until 2025.
Misty and I became good friends when we served together at the Eastern Women’s Reception, Diagnostic and Correctional Center in Vandalia, Missouri. She was my personal trainer and aerobics instructor, and we often spent time together during smoke time or in the prison yard. I’m sure our readers will love to hear from her.
So, here’s Misty’s answer to today’s question: How do inmates spend their time in prison? In this article, she discusses the following topics:
- How prisoners spend their time depends on several factors
- exercise is always an option
- The biggest factor is the individual prisoner
- Opportunities are out there to make prison inmates better people
How prisoners spend their time depends on several factors
The amount of time a person spends in prison depends on several factors. The type of facilities and opportunities offered vary from prison to prison, as does the amount of time spent each day in the confinement area.
Many maximum-security men’s prisons are locked 23 hours a day, meaning prisoners can only spend one hour a day outside their designated cell, thus limiting options.
Other prisons, like the two I’ve been in for the past 12 years, only require prisoners to be locked up at counting time and overnight. The more time offenders spend outside their assigned cell, the more choices they have in terms of day-to-day activities.
exercise is always an option
Exercise is an option in any prison, whether it’s in a cell, an outdoor recreation area or a gym. Libraries of all institutions are also available to all bookworms out there.
Most inmates have jobs in the prison, and most prisons have access to television for the general public. All institutions have a variety of religious services, educational programs, and classes in which prisoners can improve themselves. No matter where a prisoner is being held, there are many options available.
The biggest factor is the individual prisoner
The biggest factor in how a prisoner chooses to spend his or her time comes down to the individual. Is this person highly motivated or lazy? Is the person looking to change his/her life, or are they content to keep their old way of life?
Do individuals want to spend their time helping others and giving back to the community, or are they more interested in selfish pursuits? Is education important for prisoners? How prisoners will spend their time is a reflection of the individual themselves.
In my 12 years as a Missouri DOC inmate, I have seen how hundreds of inmates choose to spend their time and the long-term results of those choices. I’ve seen criminals get in trouble all the time, go to the hole to fight and do drugs, and don’t take advantage of educational opportunities.
I’ve seen these girls be released and come back again and again – unless they die before they have a chance to be reborn. On the other hand, I’ve seen girls who stayed out of trouble, chose to stay clean, and used programs to improve themselves, and went on to live very successful lives outside of these walls.
Who we become in prison or in life is a choice only we can make.
Opportunities are out there to make prison inmates better people
My personal prison experience has been very favorable. The guy I went to was very bent and broken from a lifetime of abuse and bad choices. I couldn’t respect the person I had become and was desperate to make the changes needed to ensure I would never be that person again.
My poor self-esteem and desire to be loved and accepted led me to a life of addiction that ended in taking the lives of others. I knew I had to change so that the life taken away would not be in vain and that I could somehow undo some of the damage I had done to others during my addiction.
During the 19 months awaiting trial in the county jail, I studied the Bible dozens of times, attended church services three times a week, and completed drug ministry classes twice.
I help teach GED classes, pray for and with others, and counsel girls who go to prison and have a really tough time. I made the choice not to lie to men for money like a lot of women do in prisons and prisons, to finish what I started, and to do my best to act with integrity by not lying, stealing, or engaging in frivolous sexual encounters . Although the options in prison are very limited, I have found ways to use my time to be more productive.
After being in prison, my world opened up in so many ways and I was able to take advantage of many opportunities to improve my own life and the lives of others. I spent two and a half years taking a Christian program at the institution that not only taught me about God, but also taught me how to function in my community – something I’ve never done because I have always been cut off from others.
I have been fortunate to have the opportunity to facilitate the ICVC program in prisons – a program that teaches the impact of our crimes on victims – for two years, tell my story in a pre-release program for two years, and give back to the community through restorative justice, There I sewed quilts and worked in the prison garden.
I’m also AFAA certified and have taught cardio for many years, using my teaching platform to help women not only get fitter, but also build their confidence.
In addition to the classes I have taught, I have taken numerous classes, graduated from vocational/technical school with a professional horticulture certificate, and held numerous jobs where I was able to learn responsibility and practice good work ethic by being punctual Do my best.
I read hundreds of books, many of them to increase my knowledge of various disciplines, improve my own physical health through diet and exercise, and for the first time in my life had the opportunity to play sports. I have laughed and cried, loved and lost, and become what I could never have been before – me.
So you see, what a person does in prison is entirely up to the individual. You can take good psychoactive drugs and let your life pass by, wasting precious time in a life you only live once, or you can make each day count by finding ways to affect the world around you.
The choice is yours.
No matter where you are in life or in the world, you can choose who you want to be and what kind of life you want to live today. It’s never too late to be the person you’ve always wanted to be, and it’s never too early to start making a difference!
Would you like to write to Mistie Vance or donate to her commissary? You can write to her:
Mistie Vance #1231904
3151 Lytton Road
Chillicothe, Missouri 64601
If you want to deposit funds into her commissary account, you can do so at JPAY.com. Select Missouri — Chillicothe Correctional Center — Inmate #1231904 Mistie Vance.
Sources: Personal Experience Essay by inmate Mistie Vance at CCC in Chillicothe, MO.