Matthew Van Nuys, Legacy Division, Western Region, Team Penetratorz
Before I was sent to prison, I shared my story with you men. Now, a month into serving my 14-month sentence at Lompoc Federal Prison Camp, the culture shock is slowly morphing into tentative familiarity, and I find myself acclimating to an environment unlike that which I had expected. This is no SuperMax Dungeon, but it’s not “Martha Stewart Manners Camp” either. This is a Work Camp. Up by 5 a.m., work by 6 a.m. SHARP. It’s a bit like the army but with more tattoos, fewer women (zero to be exact), plenty of trouble (if you’re looking for it) and the occasional seriously bad attitude with which to contend.
Physically, the biggest threats here are illness and injury. Among the facilities we operate are several industrial farms and a power station, and because medical care here can be “slow,” people who do not practice caution and self-care can get injured or even die. Staying healthy is imperative. Psychologically, your worst enemies here are loneliness, isolation, disconnection and struggling to wear the mask yet not become it. But the greatest struggle of all is learning to accept the total and complete lack of control over your own life. Whether it’s being denied visitation with the love of my life and spouse of 17 years or the chance that at anytime I could be in the wrong place at the wrong time or say the wrong thing and end up in the hole, I am surrounded by and permeated with the ever-presently invasive reminders that my fate is NOT in my own hands, but rather up to the mercurial whims of others. There is a very real battle fought every single day here to retain your sanity and self-worth in the face of an entire system designed to break you down and “put you in your place.” And so you make the best choices you have available to you at any given time. As such, I make and implement a singular choice every single day; it is my life’s motto: laugh or cry, we live until we die. Me, I choose to laugh and hold my head high!
I am grateful to MDI, my Division (Legacy) and my Team (Penetratorz) for giving me the tools I need to not merely survive but to thrive in this environment and beyond. Before I left, I created a CPR (vision statements) for my time spent here, and it has helped sustain me in every way. Chief among the results I listed was “To positively influence as many men as I can while I am incarcerated.” Working toward that goal on a daily basis compels me to continue and propels me into a more positive future for me, my fellow inmates, my family, my friends and my community. It is my intent to enroll, connect and send as many men as I can back to MDI divisions all across the West Coast. My work is well underway. I already have a young man due for release and headed to Southern California in December. I will be contacting the appropriate divisions about supporting this young man to be his own best result as he returns to face whatever challenges he may face in the future.
If it were not for Legacy Division, I never would have become the man I am becoming every day. I am that young man. Now it’s your turn. What will YOU do to help YOUR fellow men in YOUR life? If not you, who? If not now, when?