08 February 2008

The Big Lie

People sometimes ask if guys at the prison lie to me. I'm sure they do. I've been known to tell a few lies myself. Why wouldn't any other person tell me a lie?

The lies are easy to spot some days. I ask how a guy is doing. "I'm fine," he says, but he doesn't look me in the eye, his chin is a little wobbly. "Liar." Usually he looks sheepish. Then we close the door and he talks. He's used to saying, "Fine," because that is what you say. The word maintains the facade of a guy who can handle anything that gets thrown at him. "Fine."

Other lies? They may be less than the truth--about a crime that was committed, a domestic dispute gets wrapped in 4th degree assault, a death in a traffic accident that fails to mention the death. "You got five years for a car accident?" Just asking the question lets him know I know he's lying.

Some offenders lie about why they are in prison altogether. When the prison pecking order seems to glamorize murder and assault, the bottom of the pile is the sex offense, especially those against children. If a man is going to survive the first few months of prison, he finds another charge with an equivalent sentence and claims that as his own.

Behind the door of my office, I hear the truth, or at least more truth than another offender is likely to hear.

I don't go to my work thinking everyone is lying to me. I expect they are telling the truth and if they're not, the truth will eventually come out. I've advocated for a man on occasion, only to discover that he hadn't told me enough truth for me to be a credible advocate. But I go on.

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