If I had to describe myself in a nutshell, I would tell you that I am “go, go, go.” Even on days that I intend to keep time open for rest and relaxation, I end up turning those days into scheduled days of rejuvenating activities. For instance, I might start my morning off by walking the dogs and then head to a yoga class. After yoga, I have just enough time to change into some dry clothes at the studio and drive downtown for a meeting with friends. Afterwards, I will grab coffee and attend a book study, followed by lunch with a friend. When I get home, I will go for a bike ride and then spend maybe thirty minutes reading on the sofa with my dogs before I am off to my next activity. I enjoy having activities to fill up my day.
Needless to say, I am the same at work. In the past, I have had jobs where I went to work five days a week, but my assigned weekly tasks could easily be finished within two and a half days. Therefore, I had plenty of time to prep food at work, go on long walks at lunch, surf the internet, and work on art project’s in my supervisor’s office as we caught up on life. Do not get me wrong—such a light schedule is very stress-free and can be quite enjoyable if you have ways to fill up the time, but it is not me.
I work best under pressure. I want a job where every minute counts, where I have to use each moment wisely if I want to make it to my evening yoga class. I like having impeding deadlines. I enjoy feeling productive at work. I prefer jobs where there is not a moment to spare during the workday. This is what works for me.
Of course, each person is unique. We all have different interests and hobbies that make us tick. However, at our core, some semblance of a routine seems to inspire productivity in most people. That is not to say that everyone needs to be go, go, go. In fact, such a lifestyle does not work for many people. However, structure does work.
Children grow up going to school. After school, oftentimes students will participate in sports or other extracurricular activities. This schedule helps children learn discipline. When we are of the age that we enter the workforce, we have set schedules at our jobs. Our bosses tell us that we must be present at a certain time and that we much remain on the premises performing our job duties for an allotted amount of time.
Imagine if children went to school, but had no guidance. For instance, if teachers told their students that they needed to learn various subjects and read numerous books within the next few months, but then the teachers left the students to their own devices. The overwhelming majority of grade school aged students would not follow through on the assignments, not because these students do not care about learning, but because they do not yet have the discipline and work ethic needed to self-monitor their learning. In part, that is why the structure provided by schools and teachers is so crucial.
Similarly, consider if you start a new job and while you are very smart, you do not yet have the technical knowledge necessary to perform your tasks. However, your employers tells you that you do not need to attend the trainings unless you feel like it. The trainings are very sporadic and at inconvenient times, so you decide not attend. While normally you may be a great employee, at this particular job, you would have a very hard time succeeding.
Knowing that structure and routine breed success, why does society tolerate a lack of structure behind bars? We want those in jails and prisons to remain crime-free and be upstanding members of society, yet we typically do not mandate that they attend programs behind bars. While we want them to change, we are not providing them with adequate new tools to break their previously engrained habits. We are telling them to change on their own accord. It is like going to the hardware store for bread.
You can tell me all you want that I need to have a better work ethic, but what does a better work ethic look like in practice? You can tell me that I need to have more compassion, but what does that mean in terms of how I interact with someone? You can tell me that I need to treat others with respect, but what are some examples? We cannot help someone be the best version of him or herself if we do not require sufficient guidance. More is necessary than merely providing opportunities.
In society, we have many self-help or personal betterment type groups such as church gatherings, bible studies, meditation groups, yoga classes, drum circles, and twelve-step groups. However, it intimidates many people who have never attended those type events to commence participation. How will I feel if I do not fit in with the group? What if I do not know what to do when I am there? Will I feel uncomfortable? These fears prevent us from experiencing certain first times.
Therefore, we cannot expect those in custody always to participate in whatever programming is available just because the opportunity presents itself. Instead, we need to provide a push, a jumping-off point. We not only need to encourage those behind bars to attend programming, but we also need to require them to attend. Moreover, we need to command penal institutions to provide more structure and more programming on a daily basis, at least if we truly want to see rehabilitation.