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Essay: "Personal Boundaries"

by Matt Green
Two Way Street

Personal Boundaries are a two way street. You have to respect others in order to have yours respected. Also, you have personal boundaries within yourself. When people come to prison, myself included, you have an attitude that you will never do this or that, then one day you find yourself in a position, due to the situation of being in prison, and those boundaries mean nothing no more. I have found myself crossing those lines quite a few times over the years. Having to deal with that mentally can have a really negative effect on your personal being. We all have personal boundaries that tie us to a time in our past or keep us grounded in the present, our parents or surroundings have instilled this in us.

Me, I do not like to be touched by others. I do not like people close to me, even people I like and know. My personal space becomes a boundary in a sense, and I don't like people putting things in or taking things out of my cage. To these rules like any other there are those exceptions. I have known Mark my whole bit, and when he walks up to a friend he always touches you. It is something I have grown used to through knowing him. I have to deal with others thinking that they can touch me at times, because I allow Mark to cross that boundary.

Other aspects of personal boundaries can be your belongings. I don't lend to anyone outside my personal circle, and even then there are limits. Over the years, I have had to cut quite a few people off due to wanting to borrow. The biggest joke I find in here is people who smoke, which I am not one, wanting to borrow matches. I don't smoke and I keep a box around. In the past if someone would ask for a book of matches I wouldn't think much of the fact and give it to them. A box of 50 books is only 35 cents or so. Well, I started noticing that these same people would be borrowing matches on the same day commissary came. With that a new boundary was put up. Plus once someone has borrowed something of you once, they tend to think the door is open to borrow other things. That is why personal boundaries are an important part of self preservation in prison. For if you don't set up a strong set of personal boundaries for yourself, the convicts around you will treat you like dirt and try to use you every chance they get.

There is a big difference between jails as far as personal boundaries go. Here when people walk down the tier, it has become acceptable for them to be looking in your room as they go by, other prisons I been in you would be beat done for eye hustling. Personal boundaries concerning the cops up here seem to be non-existent, whereas in other prisons you always needed someone with you to talk to a cop, here it is commonplace for convicts to have one on one conversation with the cops and think nothing of talking about another convict during the conversation. There used to be boundaries between the cops and us. Those personal boundaries here in New Jersey have become gray area. From being from another state prison system I have a different view concerning personal boundaries. Whether I am right or wrong in my thoughts, I notice with the decline of people's personal boundaries, there is also a decline in the quality of a convict's life.

Because without strong personal boundaries you become nothing more than the number you are issued on your arrival. Take a look at the Jews during the holocaust, once they gave up all their personal boundaries to the Germans, they became nothing more than the number tattooed on their arm, lined up for the slaughter. Like I said earlier, whether I am right or wrong in my thinking, these are my thought concerning personal boundaries.

-Matt Green