behind the scenes: the beginning


This is a short series of posts I’m writing in response to a recurring question I’ve gotten over the years. Many people have wanted to know what things were like for me. Instead of repeating oft told “prison stories”, I’ve decided that a better answer would involve impressionism. So, these are my impressions of events…


by Alex King

Prison starts at the verdict. Once all the jokes, fears and horror stories of hell on Earth become an imminent reality, the psychological effects begin. A dark gulf yawns before you and you start to feel the weight of chains constraining your entire being. Depression and despair settle in for the long haul, continually threatening a devastating hopelessness. Shock can sometimes delay this effect, but not for long. This immutable reality will soon take you, and try with all its might to crush you, utterly.

This is just the onset of the tempest. It seems like the worst part only because of the contrast. Soon after comes sentencing. For some, the sentence gives a light at the tunnel’s end. For others, a light only exists beyond the vanishing point, or not at all. To be set on a path of torment, knowing it will not end for an incomprehensible length of time, can easily shatter all but the most fortified spirits. The longer the trek through that gulf, the easier it is to become lost.

Waiting for transport is torture. Nervous anxiety builds. It becomes harder and harder to smile. You begin to forget what it’s like to laugh. Many pace. Others fidget. When sleep comes, it’s restless and fitful, providing none but the smallest relief. Pity from those around you, from those you are in contact with, poisons you, corroding your composure. Each day, you hope it will end, and each day, you dread the end’s approach. Then, finally, the hammer falls. Your name is called. You are told to pack.

Transport and intake alike are a nerve-wracking mixture of whirlwinds blended with tense calm. “Hurry, hurry!” “Move, inmate!” “Wait there!” The clock runs, hours pass like weeks. Orders come to perform tasks. Orders come to wait for the next order to move. You hop to when called, so as not to attract notice. Those who are too slow are harassed. Those who are noncompliant are taken away. Certain atrocities committed in these places are carefully kept out of the view of the camera.

Relief and anxiety create a bitter blend as intake finalizes. An entire day of high stress with no hint of comfort, whether physical, mental, or emotional, leaves you exhausted. Your life has been drastically redefined, and this is only the beginning.


Groove of the Day

Listen to The Eagles performing “Hotel California”


14 Responses to “behind the scenes: the beginning”

  1. 1 anonymouse
    September 20, 2014 at 7:11 pm

    It was the thought of young boys/men such as yourself, feeling swallowed by the system, feeling lost, abandoned, and alone that motivated me to start my correspondence with the young men of RP. If I could provide a glimmer of hope for an end and a future, to show that someone sees and cares, that others have faced such difficulties and made a future for themselves, then perhaps I could give someone the strength to go on instead of giving in to the darkness of such places.

  2. 3 Daryl Watton
    September 20, 2014 at 9:26 pm

    Your “impressions” are important for us to hear, Alex. I’m sure they are therapeutic, cathartic even, to share. We all must be sympathetic, nay empathetic, for those who suffer alone through the first days of facing incarceration. Unfortunately, for those of us who reach out to help, it is often very late after the initial psychological trauma. I tend to hear the stories many months, even years after the events and it pains me I couldn’t be there to help a young man who is facing these ordeals alone. Reaching out to these kids/adults is important but we should (and I am making some effort) to change the way our societies deal with our delinquent and victimized youth.

    I’m very pleased to see that Dan has loaned you his blog/diary for you to reach out, heal and share. It’s great reading you. I look forward to more.

    • September 20, 2014 at 10:44 pm

      Not to worry, there is more to come. To properly explain the later stages of this experience, it is necessary to lay the ground work with how it all starts. I am writing this in response to those curious and as a possible aid to those seeking to understand what is going on with the people they are trying to help. Thank you for taking part in helping those who so desperately need it, and for caring.
      -Alex King

  3. September 21, 2014 at 3:28 am

    Thank you for sharing with us your experience, Alex. Most people can only imagine what you have faced and what can be felt by a young person in such circumstances. You have a talent to share and understand by others, by your words, what you’ve experienced and how you felt things.

    Continue in this direction because put words on an old suffering has a therapeutic effect and can help to heal the traumas of the past. Just as the living environment that represents the beauty of nature that surrounds Estrella Vista.

    • September 21, 2014 at 8:19 am

      Thank you for your comment. However, I feel compelled to take issue with a misconception you are representing. Please note that therapy is not my goal, nor is it my need. In the opening of this piece, I stated my intention. It is to give response to a question many have asked. If I write this, or if I do not, I will be just as well off. Please do not pity me. Please do not pity anyone who goes through this.
      -Alex King

      • 7 matt
        September 21, 2014 at 8:54 am

        I don’t mean to school you here, Alex, and I think I know what you mean, but Merriam Webster defines pity as, “a strong feeling of sadness or sympathy for someone or something” or “sympathetic sorrow for one suffering, distressed, or unhappy”, in which case I think it appropriate. Alternatively, and probably more to your point, pity is defined as, “slightly contemptuous sorrow for one in misery or distress”, and obviously no none wants that.

        If we think of pity as, “the act or capacity for sharing the painful feelings of another”, then it can serve as the motivation for people to see and take action against injustice or support someone in need, both noble goals of the RP.

      • September 21, 2014 at 9:06 am

        Stefan Zweig wrote that there are two kinds of pity, and I have experienced both in my life:

        “There are two kinds of pity. One, the weak and sentimental kind, which is really no more than the heart’s impatience to be rid as quickly as possible of the painful emotion aroused by the sight of another’s unhappiness, that pity which is not compassion, but only an instinctive desire to fortify one’s own soul against the sufferings of another; and the other, the only one at counts, the unsentimental but creative kind, which knows what it is about and is determined to hold out, in patience and forbearance, to the very limit of its strength and even beyond.”

      • September 21, 2014 at 9:47 am

        Sorry if I have hurt you, it was not my purpose. English is not my mother tongue and I often fear to speak inappropriately, what seems to have been the case on this occasion. What I feel towards you, Alex, is more respect and sympathy for a young man who has known difficult moments and which is trying to build his future than pity or compassion. A future that I wish bright for you.

      • September 21, 2014 at 9:57 am

        That’s fine. Thank you for your concern and support. It was simply a misunderstanding.
        -Alex King

  4. 11 BobH
    September 21, 2014 at 1:05 pm

    There’s a book in your future Alex if you care to write it. Not so much a personal history, but a set of impressions to illuminate the thinking of people who are players in this system.

  5. September 22, 2014 at 8:48 am

    This is tragically beautiful. You painted with words.

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