Prisoners do not usually distinguish between daylight and night. The cells have wet floors that smell of urine and rotten food. The kitchen is not separated from the toilet, which is usually the same place where the prisoners’ beds and dreams are located. Nothing is divided nor specified, as the book of Genesis describes the state of the pre-created world. In this week’s blog, we present five snapshots derived from the doctoral ethnographic research of our project coordinator Mina Ibrahim. Mixed with an examination of existing prison literature and films in addition to a personal experience, the following fragments tend to capture special moments in the lives of former and current prisoners amid struggling against a place that does its best to prevent them from labelling, differentiating, and creating their everyday lives.
Story #1: The First Supper
"Probably, the adaptation to the imprisonment duration is more difficult than the prison itself. I got released after more than ten years. I went home. Took a hot bath I had been missing. Slept on a bed for which I was craving. And then came the supper time, my first meal with my family after prison. Everyone took their place except me. I did not find a chair for myself. Even the dining table adapted to my absence, and it is time to get used to its presence."
Story #2: The First Gathering
"I was keen to see her. She waited for me, and did not change, as others left me. I do not blame anyone. But I appreciate who waited. I did not see her during my imprisonment, and I did not ask about the reason for why she did not come to see me. My grandmother, who reached eighty years, the quarter of which or less I spent in prison. After I was released, I ran from the police station to the staircase of my home. She knew about it, and left the house to shorten the distance between us. She asked if I was there, although I was standing next to her. She poured a lot of tears that prevented the completion of our first gathering."
Story #3: The Exodus
They say that prisons are there to discipline us. I am the one who did not disobey anyone in my life. Disciplined for whom and for what reasons then? I was a kid, who was going to the mosque on Friday mornings. I come from a poor family, and was educated in governmental public schools. I forgot what I learned at school, and I forgot to pray. I forgot the roads and the directions. Even my writing is not disciplined and my sentences are incomplete. I am getting familiar to you, as I did to those who say they are my family. I need love, hug, and kiss to make sense of the place and the time.
Story #4: The First Lesson
He was born in the prison I am working for. The time comes, when he has to go out.
-"I will tell the story of a kid who loves his bike"
- "What is the meaning of a bike, Mister?"
- "He goes to the school with his bike"
- "What does school mean, Mister?"
-"He loves geography and history?
- "Which history, Mister?"
-"Ok, forget about the story, but you have to forget that you lived here."
- "What is the meaning of forgetting, Mister?"
Story #5: The Problem
She laughed and said, "My problem in the past was escaping from those who wanted to kill me. Now, I get worried when I do not find food for my cat."