I’ve been locked up for 18-1/2 years, and I’ll have 19-1/2 in when I’m finally released next year. One thing I’ve often heard is that doing that much time makes you “institutionalized.” See The Shawshank Redemption for a concise description of this condition. I’ve always been skeptical of it, though. I like to think that I’m in charge of my life and my mind, my beliefs and opinions, and if something is disagreeable, I change it. But lately, I’ve been thinking, and sometimes the smallest act of kindness, a smile from a staff member maybe, is enough to change my mood and outlook. In a way that seems sad. Maybe I am affected quite strongly by the prison environment, if that’s all it takes. And what is going to be like when I’m out there in the real world, where the environment is so much better, not based on hate and ignorance and aggression, where being nice is seen as a weakness, and being violent is seen as a righteous?