14 October, 2022

Busy, Busy Me

"You're a busy man," an old friend wrote, astutely, in a recent letter. He must've seen that pie chart a few weeks ago. But what makes me so busy?

The crush of extra stuff to handle at work has finally wound down, but that doesn't make me any less busy. Luke and I undertook the production of a new TV series a biweekly, hour-long talk show for the prison population, which delves into important subjects such as purpose, rehabilitation, institutionalization, and so on. This in addition to our weekly cooking program, This Is Fire; our weekly music-exploration show, The Playlist; our intermittent computer how-to series, Tablet Talk; and the monthly Saint Louis University Speaker Series events that we video-record, package, and broadcast in-house. YouTube doesn't know what it's missing.

Sometimes I worry about burnout. How much dedication to the job is too much, before I'm considered a workaholic? Would I work this hard or this much if I wasn't limited to this prison life? And it's not just work that's keeping me occupied, either. I also have my duties as an officer of the Speak Easy Gavel Club.

When the club received its first written complaint about officer misconduct, it was my responsibility as Vice President to chair a disciplinary committee, which first had to determine the merit of the complaint, then hear evidence for and against the accused, and finally render a judgment that resulted in the club voting to suspend two officers' membership for one year. A friend suggested that I blog about the experience, but by the time the smoke cleared I was ready to shelve Robert's Rules of Order and never again say the words "deliberative standard." I'm sorry if that makes you feel cheated. Auditing the records of members' progress along the Toastmasters education track, putting together the club's 2023 yearly plan, and typesetting our newsletter in Microsoft Publisher have taken some time, too. I should have my Advanced Leader Bronze certification before the year's out. This may seem like a lot. It's not enough to stop me, though. Thanks to Saint Louis University, which I mentioned above, Shaheen Pasha, founder of the Prison Journalism Project at Penn State, will be here on Monday to discuss the history of journalism in prisons. My hope is that she mentions the current state of prison media, exemplified by San Quentin, which produces the excellent podcast Ear Hustle. A podcast or publicly available video production from ERDCC would make for a phenomenal opportunity
for the facility, for its population, and for the Missouri Department of Corrections as a whole. If Ms. Pasha touches on this, the information she shares could be crucial to the proposal I hope to write for the warden's consideration. If you've been reading this blog over the past several months, you might've noticed a slight inclination to thinking about a future outside of my current environment. Last night I had a dream that a coworker gifted me two pairs of shoes to wear when I get out of prison a dress pair and a casual pair. Both pairs were hideous, and I was overjoyed to receive them. No matter how ugly the shoes, they were a symbol of my immanent release. This from my sleeping brain. As much as I want out, I'm here now. And this is the point I'm trying to make. Even though I'm fixated on getting out of prison, I feel no less driven to change this environment for the better. There are people here who genuinely want to improve how they live, whether they're paroling in six months or sentenced to die in prison. The urge to live a life of purpose exists independent of one's legal commitment. Helping them to realize that feels like the right thing to do.
By staying busy helping them, I'm helping myself as well, in both the short term and long term. Who knows, maybe soon my ambition and intention will carry over into the outside world, where they can benefit the imprisoned and the free alike. In the meantime, I'll just maintain this slightly crazy schedule and continue to wear this small, contented smile.


  1. Great piece, very well written. Above all, well done. Keep going in this great work. Cheers.


Byron does not have Internet access. Pariahblog.com posts are sent from his cell by way of a secure service especially for prisoners' use. We do read him your comments, however, and he enjoys hearing your thoughts very much.