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  • Writer's pictureElijah Ricks

What I’ve Learned in Prison

Ahh, shock value… I’m beginning to see the appeal. If you’re a recent addition to the enormous-and-constantly-growing readership of The Ricks Experiment, the title of today’s post may have thrown you off guard momentarily. Adventurous as T.R.E. audience members are, I’m sure you will venture on to explore the meaning of the title. Yes, I have been in and out of prison for the last 2 years, I admit; but it was entirely voluntary every time (well, I suppose employment is a prison in itself in many ways, but that’s for another post). I am within 2 weeks of my final date of employment, or as we like to call it in the corrections industry, my “Mandatory Release Date.” I have worked as a psychotherapist with the offenders in several of Colorado’s correctional facilities, from medium security all the way to the supermax security, where I am currently. This position has allowed me a great deal of face time with the outcasts of American society, and, I believe, has left me with some valuable experience and interesting perspectives. I would like to share some of what I have learned in the last 2 years, in no particular order.

  1. Aggression is not learned, but self control is.

  2. Criminal thinking is very often taught.

  3. Almost everyone exists with the inherent assumption that they are reasonable people.

  4. The greatest hope we have of building a better, more functional world is through functional familial relationships.

  5. I look like a nerd in a tie and slacks.

  6. No matter how bad I think I have it, somebody has it far worse than I could have imagined.

  7. As Nietzsche said, “He who has a why to live for can bear almost any how.”

  8. The difference between a miserable person and a content person is how he or she approaches the world. Perspective is everything.

  9. We are none of us perfect, and taking an honest look at ourselves is perhaps the most difficult, but most rewarding task we may undertake.

  10. Many seemingly “normal” citizens are just as sociopathic as those behind bars (I think I probably dated some years ago), they have just found adaptive or legal ways of being sociopathic.

  11. I can’t last very long without a little fresh air.

  12. Sometimes the best therapy is a little bit of intentional listening.

  13. When it rains, it really does pour.

  14. Among the largest challenges to criminals is understanding and accepting that they are in control of their destinies, not simply victims of the rest of the world.

  15. The little things we do today lead to the things we will be doing tomorrow.

I’m sure I could go on and on, but these are probably the most significant things I’ve learned. Some of these are hopefully intuitive to most of you, but I believe that my experiences among the criminal population has driven these home for me.

Of course, my Ph.D. program is a legal concentration, so I’m sure I’ll be spending more time in prisons. I just hope they’ll continue to let me leave whenever I want.

P.S. We have finalized our address in Texas. If you did not receive an email with our updated address and would like it, please leave a comment with your email address or another way to contact you. I’ll delete the comment as soon as I send the address to you. Please be advised that we prefer to get mail containing good news.


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