Do you think prison has a different value system

jail-cells-429638_1280Okay, I’ve never been to prison, nor jail so I can’t say for certain, but you watch enough of those locked up scared straight shows on A&E and I guess you can get a pretty good idea that things in prison operate a bit differently than the world outside.

In prison things actions and thoughts that would be punished in the outside world, are often rewarded behind bars. Actions and thoughts that we may believe are admirable on the outside, may be seen as weakness on the inside. When someone goes to prison, there’s a learning process to figure out what’s rewarded and what’s punished. Thus we learn the standards of behavior for that group. If we don’t figure out the standards quickly, there can be severe, even deadly consequences.

While we all may not have been to jail or prison, we have all experienced this value clarification. As kids, when we moved from elementary school through middle school (or junior high for those of us of a certain generation) then to high school, we watched the culture around us and made decisions about what was valued and what wasn’t. Since high school never really ends, we’re still making those same decisions. Actually, it’s a survival mechanism. When you’re part of the tribe, your brain tells you have a better chance of living.

If you’ve been in the military, you remember your basic training where you were taught an entirely new set of values. Civilian behaviors were not typically rewarded.

What is valued in your peer group? I’ve been part of peer groups where the group more valued the fact that you were a country-western bar type, or that you played a lot of recreational hockey, or you loved reading. I’ve been part of peer groups where flying (yes, actually flying planes) was rewarded by the group whereas if you said that, no, you weren’t flying, you decided to go hiking that day, you were actually less valued.

I’m not saying any of these values are wrong. But, if you’re trying to achieve a certain outcome in life, you need to take a look at the people you spend time with, the people whose opinions matter to you and see what their values are.

If you want to change your outcome, think about selecting a peer group, or at least some other peers to add to your existing social circles, that have values that are consistent with where you want to go or with what you want to achieve.


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