Daniel Harris – Mind Games in Our Family

Mind Games in Our Family

Humans, being creatures of high intellect (there are always exceptions to such generalities), are prone to mind games, whether as assailant or victim. In our Prisoner Express family mind games are unusual, but name calling is such a game played by those lacking the ability to defend their positions intelligently. We all know the types. They’re the ones that think yelling loud and long proves they won an argument and never listen to what anyone else has to say.

It was my honor tonight to read seven letters that were written in reply to my essay, “Standing Positive” and request within it for PE members to give their opinions on censorship of materials that Gary is to mail into prisons. It was written to inform all that I was urging Gary to use caution in what he mailed into prisoners. I was willing to be censored to protect PE. I still am.

Due to my vocation I may be more aware of the position taken by the Texas prison bureaucracy. When copies of my writings are returned to me through the mail they are often denied due to content. These are the same copies I mailed out of the prison only weeks before. The only difference is their being multiplied in the process. Naming prison gangs is a sure way to draw attention, even if you are against all gang activity and state that position. As an individual I can afford scrutiny. PE cannot because PE is dependent on the continual approval of officials for access to prisoners. I also provide books to all prisoners that live in my general area at no cost. That’s in violation of TDCJ rules and regulations and make me have to work within the system, greasing the wheels with respect, courtesy, and kindness, so they never question the amount of books I’m getting in by mail when we have a two cubic foot restriction on the amount of property we are allowed. My distribution operation couldn’t operate without the assistance of officials and many prisoners wouldn’t have reading materials. I’m willing to play the mind games necessary to be allowed to help my fellow prisoners. One thing is guaranteed, we all have to play games to continue our projects and if PE ever gives them a reason they will find their access denied.

Four of the letters were supporting my position. You touched my heart that you were willing to take the time and you each wrote wonderfully. I thank you. We all know it isn’t human nature to write about what you agree with. We humans are more likely to write when we want to voice dissent. The vote was in favor of a little censoring of the minority that misuses PE, by accident or intent, to protect this valuable resource for the majority that really appreciates it.

One person of the three dissenting chose to resort to name calling, maybe he thought to use this mind game to make me ashamed of my position. He said I couldn’t support the 1st Amendment and censorship of a prisoner’s writings to PE. It is not Gary or myself that want to see writings’ censored. Nothing stops you from saying what you wish and mailing it to PE. PE just can’t be responsible for your advocating violence or gang activities. PE must obey the rules and regulations of all prisons or take a chance of being banned after they are labeled a threat to security. Each person’s thoughts are valuable and I support your right to voice them, but I refuse to jeopardize PE to give you a venue to recruit and advocate what is anathema to the goals of Prisoner Express. Yes, there is a goal and PE does have a right to an opinion. PE advocates finding other options to violence through educational opportunities and providing intellectual and artistic outlets for prisoners. They give each member emotional support for their positive goals. Though PE would be willing, if not for prison rules, to allow the most stridently aggressive voice to be heard, it does not agree with violence or any behavior that causes harm. PE is an organization that attempts to promote emotional growth and nonviolent options. Anyone that wants an audience for a violent screed can find one, probably the cell next door. Think of the postage you’d save.

Many of the rules in prison are for the sole purpose of playing games with our minds. I find it in my best interest to work around them and avoid confrontation when that is possible, such as with my book distribution. One of their worst psychological tactics is to convince prisoners that there is no escape from violence in prison. In part, they are right; but because our environment requires violence to survive does not mean we cannot strive to live in peace. The minutes of failure mean nothing when you compare them to years of success.

To each of you that gave your time and made the effort to voice your opinions, I thank you. Know that I read every word, whether you were with me or against me I value your opinions. It was my idea that we come together, as a group (a family if you will), and make this decision democratically. Counting myself and Gary we have nine votes to tally, six in support of limited censorship and three against. If you didn’t vote by taking part in our discussion you have no right to complain about the outcome and shame on you. But I hope that our decision suits you.

If you look at this logically you’ll see we really have no choice except to comply with all institutional rules if PE is to continue to be the open, vibrant and valuable resource Prisoners need to work together in uplifting, educating, and rehabilitating themselves and each other. As a family of very different individuals disagreements are sure to arise about the direction PE should follow. Gary will always have the right of veto, he pays the bills and does the lion’s share of the work to keep PE going. More discussions of this sort may be required disagreement is normal in relationships of this kind. Mind games, especially name calling, are never the best way to resolve differences. I am fully aware of my ability to be a jackass at times. Reminders are unnecessary. To compare me to Bush was a low blow and I have a couple of friends reading this that need to stop laughing. As with any family that is emotionally healthy, I forgive you and hope you will forgive me. It was never my intent to anger anyone, only to protect PE from misuse.

Walk in peace and remember, Prisoner Express members are a rare breed. We should try to set good examples when we can. We are also human, prone to mind games that often fail. The only people who never fail are people that never try. Count the years in peace, not the minutes in violence.