How to Navigate Oppressive Environments – by Thomas Porter – Thoughts by Inmates

Here comes another piece of writing by Thomas Porter. For this one, How to Navigate Oppressive Environments, I need to give some explanation beforehand. Given that he describes the dire circumstances that form his daily reality, now there is another obstacle that is now thrown his way.

Thomas asked me to sign up for video visits, which I did. At first, my application was accepted and then, barely a second later, I received another email informing me that my application was rejected. No explanation was given. That email came from GTL, the company that provides means of communication between prisoners and loved ones.

For over a month I went back and forth with GTL, asking for clarification, and I was getting absolutely nowhere with them. It was extremely frustrating. Finally, they gave me a clear answer – for which I had to wait 5 or 6 weeks – and told me that the decision to accept or reject video visit applications didn’t lie with them but with the visiting department at the prison where Thomas is.

How to Navigate Oppressive Environments - by Thomas Porter - Thoughts by Inmates
Photo credit: by Andrea Piacquadio on Pexels

Incidentally, I had already called the prison before that and the visiting staff told me kindly that they had “no idea what was happening and that the fault lay entirely with GTL” and that it was “a terrible company”.

I wrote the email address that GTL provided me, a government email regarding visitation inquiries. I’m guessing that this email arrives at the same department that I called a few weeks ago …

I wrote them on 29 October 2021. Then I wrote them again on 8 November. I still haven’t received an answer. There is legally no reason to reject my request for visitation application and it is obviously based on some pathetic, personal thing from a staff member against Thomas. Just another abuse against an inmate, what else is new, right?


Another pen pal told me that prison staff often do their best to discourage people to communicate with their loved ones in prison by throwing obstacles their way and ignoring their emails and calls until they give up. The truth is that many give up, which is why they keep on doing it. However, I’m not going to give up. I will keep on writing them until I get someone decent enough to give me a reply and do the job that they are paid to do.

They are not paid to discriminate based on race or the nature of a crime from the past. They are there to do a job, and abuse, neglect, and racism is not part of their job description, yet, it seems to be an issue all the time. They treat people they’re in charge of in a way they wouldn’t like to be treated by others. I’m sure that there is also some decent staff but so far I don’t know of any yet.

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So, below I’ll share Thomas’s thoughts. Please let me know your thoughts and questions in the comments at the bottom of this blog post. Thank you for reading!

Lila C Duville


By Thomas Porter

How can we navigate oppressive environments with core practices that build community resistance and more loving ways of Living, not just surviving?

I live within an environment where it is culturally acceptable to have usury on your mind and within your heart every day. Games and Lies are forms of hiding insecurities or so much damage within,

Yet I practice kindness and smile meditation in what I just told you to me is a damaged environment, I struggle and battle my own depression and even frustration when I see those around me accept their circumstances as if nothing could be better than this very moment.

It’s like I’m emotionally drowning every day and my mind and heart is tired from the swimming I must do to survive another journey.

emotionally drowning
Photo credit; pexels, by Donald Tong

Yet at my core in the darkness of my depths I hear that Warrior ask me: “Okay, what does giving up get you at this very moment?”

I respond: “Emotional death.”

So, he says: “Swim on and the tide will aid you. And what is the tide, Thomas?”

“Members of #TeamStayStrong!” ;3)

“So keep your practice of kindness and smile meditation because in the end of this journey there will be appreciation from your soul” ;3)

fight, resist
Foto by michelle guimarães on Pexels

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  1. It’s a sad thing really when those who are meant to do their job and be pillars of support instead discriminate and further perpetuate hate crimes. There’s no excuse for such behaviors and I can only imagine the impact of such actions on the emotional and psychological health of the inmates and others like yourself exposed to such.

    Now to the thoughts given by Thomas on how we can navigate oppressive environments with core practices, I can see that it is applicable to anyone who is trying to rise and build their strength beyond their current or bleak circumstances.
    “Okay, what does giving up get you at this very moment?”
    Such a profound and strength inducing question. When we start asking ourselves questions like this, I think it would help build our strength and help us fight on till we rise above the ashes. We can’t afford to give up because giving up is the acceptance of a dire situation or life.

    And that’s much worse.

    And I honestly hope and believe along with Thomas that in the end, there would be appreciation for his soul.


    1. Hi Femi,

      Very true, there is absolutely no excuse for such behaviors … This is why I’m blogging about it, to let people know.
      Thomas does ask profound questions, doesn’t he? They are questions we can also apply in life on the outside.
      I’ll pass your comment on to him. He will love reading it.
      Thanks for stopping by!

  2. What a system! You are one brave and determined soul, and for that, I applaud your resilience. The world is a better place because you are in it and you are making a difference, Lila C Duville.

    The ‘kindness and smile meditation’ from Thomas is a gift to those around him, but also the best gift he can give to himself.
    The situation sucks big time and there are many reasons to give up, but we win when we remain true to our hearts. They can never break a pure spirit.
    My thoughts are with you….

    1. Hi Andrew,

      It’s a horrible system, designed to break someone’s spirit, but you’re right, we win when we remain true to our hearts. One can indeed never break a pure spirit.
      Thank you for your comment. I’ll pass it along to Thomas. He will love to hear it 🙂

  3. Thanks for this both sad reality and uplifting thoughts that made it very thought provoking for me.
    On the one hand, it makes perfect sense to allow video calls between loved ones and inmates – however there do need to be limits, a bit like in person visits currently.

    I love how Thomas promotes “So keep your practice of kindness and smile meditation because in the end of this journey there will be appreciation from your soul”
    This is so true and such a great way to think and live. If we all thought and applied our lives and hearts in that way, the world would be a far better place.

    Yes we must always keep our spirit and you and Thomas are great at reminding and inspiring us of this.

    1. Hi John,

      I understand, but limits should be based on things like covid restrictions, past convictions of the would-be visitor, unruly behavior, but not a personal issue that a staff member may have against the incercerated person because of race or the nature of his past crime. That isn’t right. This prison, Red Onion in Virginia, seems to be having many “issues”. Thomas has been trying to call family, friends, and me for weeks, and on his end it keeps ringing until then he gets the message that the line is “busy” … None of us have received his calls or have any missed calls over the last weeks. There are obviously problems on the phone line on his end but no one at Red Onion cares to look at it and get it fixed. It’s not the first time their phone line for inmates has problems. The people the staff is responsible for don’t seem to be “worth it” to them, that’s the impression I have.

      It’s admirable how Thomas keeps his spirit through all of this. He has many people rooting for him and I hope he knows that. 🙂
      His words are truly inspiring and it will brighten his day when I tell him how his words inspire others .-)

  4. I try not to think this happens, but unfortunately it always happens. I truly wish people would become more empathetic and start putting themselves in other people’s shoes. They are too quick to judge and not contemplate the other person’s circumstances. Whatever happened to do unto others the way you would like to be treated?
    I applaud you for your resilience and perserverance. He has a wonderful ally in you.

    1. Hi Nina,

      I agree, there isn’t enough empathy in this world. When you see that a person who committed a terrible mistake in his past is a different man now, then why can’t the ones who are paid to look after him not see him for that man he is today but instead focus on mentally tormenting him as much as they can? And they’re getting paid while committing these abuses.
      Thank you for your comment!

  5. It’s sad to know that staff rejected your application to communicate with Thomas via video visits. We should pay more attention to this kind of injustice inside prison and help inmates contact their loved ones.

    On the other hand, the message from Thomas still shows us the light from a dark place. From his words, I can tell that he is brave enough to put all the negative thoughts aside and only focus on the bright side. Thomas didn’t give up, and you didn’t give up either. I am happy that Thomas has a good ally like you.


    1. Hi Matt,

      Yes, it’s sad. Staff don’t realize that they’re not just messing with the inmates but also with their family and friends and they have no right to do that. It just isn’t right.
      I won’t give up.
      Thank you for your comment!

  6. I have a loved one incarcerated now. It is truly frustrating to deal with some of the staff.
    It has been a few years now and we still have issues with the phone communication service.
    Although racism and elitism are common factors but sometimes its just being petty and abuse of power. I am reminded of the Stanford Prison Study, where both staff and “inmates” gravitated to the extreme edges of the spectrum.
    I can’t help but think that these uncooperative staff members are showing traces of the same abuse of power.
    Kudos for stepping up!
    Prayers for Thomas.
    I appreciate you for writing this and allowing me to offer my comments.
    Thank you,

    1. Hi Stephen,

      It’s sad that this is such a common occurrence, abuse of power, feeling “all-powerful” because someone is wearing a uniform which in the end is just a set of clothes. I’m sorry to hear that you’re also having communication issues with your loved one. The best we can do for them is to always be there, never give up on them, and to keep on fighting to have some human contact with them.

  7. I would like to thank you for writing this article.  It is frustrating and needs to be addressed!

    I found your site quite easy to navigate and the pages loaded quickly. I really enjoyed my tour.

    I am glad to say that I didn’t find anything that needed work and I think that other visitors would enjoy your website.

    Thank you for listening and I hope that you find some resolution!


  8. Thanks a lot for your notable piece of article which nowadays everyone needs to pay attention to. We have to love each other and we have to believe in Human Equality. I found your blog completely priceless and we need more and more people like you to care about this important subject in the world.

    Keep up the good work Lila!

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