In your world the question, "What do you do?" is heavily loaded with socioeconomic meaning. You know that the way you earn a living can be used to judge everything from your intellect to your ethics.
This isn't the case in prison. Our employment is not viewed as a central part of our identity. We may ask each other "Where do you work?", but the response is only a small part in the jigsaw that comprises who we are and far less important in the judgement of identity than sentence or time served.
This may be a function of how prison work is allocated. The blind hand of the market plays no part - the needs of the institution and management imperatives are all important. The needs of prisoners are largely irrelevant, even though this failure to train useful skills may have very real consequences in terms of reoffending.
On a very personal level I can't help wondering about the bureaucratic mind which saw fit to allocate me to a workshop in order to sandpaper prison furniture. Having already spent several months scrubbing floors I wondered if there would ever be a point at which my keepers would consider that I may just may have abilities which could be used to make a more positive and significant contribution to prison life?
Or is this situation a reflection of management attitudes - prisoners are stupid and useless? Perhaps it is over optimistic of me to think that, in the last few months of my sentence, staff may think, "hey, he's on his way out, lets see just what he is capable of?"
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