I never learned how to make being a detailed, cross-examining questioner work to my advantage: all it ever got me was kicked out of school. As a child I was described as “insightful,” “creative,” and sensitive.” As a teen those words changed to “mouthy,” “rebellious,” and “misdirected.” The one that took me ages to understand was “too smart for his own good.” So maybe it’s no surprise that a prison sentence was the first substantive undertaking I ever started and finished, or that behind bars is where I learned I’d have to make a choice: to get character or become one.
Prison is where my excuses went to die.
My enemy is the excuses I find myself making. It’s the excuses I hear or overhear. I despise excuses mainly ’cause it’s impossible to learn how not to make them ’til you’ve made plenty – and that’s a paradoxical pain in the ass. I hate ‘em for their 3-card Monte knack for shortchanging the player, who only learns to walk away after being beaten a few hundred times.
Getting past your excuses is crucial for learning and building character, and as I can’t seem to recite enough: it’s been my experience that you either get character or you become one. You’ll find many examples of that here.
We all screw up, but at the point where I screwed up royally, it wasn’t just me that paid the price, but family, friends, and just about anyone I’d BS’d to get my way. So I was sent away for four years, and it took all of a minute inside to realize there are more excuses in one cellblock than the whole California prison system has inmates.
Since my release, I’ve kept an eye on California’s detention, re-entry, and recidivism issues: turns out more than two-thirds of state prisoners are rearrested within three years and half are re-incarcerated. One of my own first concerns was re-regaining the ability to vote, which spurred my focus on similar issues for others and illuminated the fiscal realities of incarceration in California. It also led me to a deeper understanding of the many players and politicians with a stake in this intensifying statewide problem.
While serving my sentence, I turned a fear of re-offending into a productive asset. It wasn’t easy. These days, any and all related headlines, editorials, and public policies have become a part of my professional focus. I make an effort to stay informed about reform, conditions in California’s overcrowded prisons, the private prison industry, and views on what works and what doesn’t toward genuine rehabilitation. I appreciate the voices of victims, offenders, and jailers alike, a position that enables me to comment fairly on a variety of debate perspectives, contentions, and legislative agendas.
Ultimately prisons are — you guessed it — where excuses go to die. When you’ve got nothing but excuses, how much could they be worth? That was my experience, anyway, so everything I’ve learned about exemption, personal responsibility, bullshit, forgiveness, and character I’ve applied to this website and the world at large. From criminal courts to state prisons, from the lady suing Nutella ’cause her kid’s fat to sidewalk etiquette for iPhone jerks, from six signs your kid’s headed for cuffs to the prison guard’s union and the politicians it sways, I pick ‘em all apart with commentary beholden to no single agenda. Read, enjoy, comment away.