I was reading an interesting article in the Essence by Lottie L. Joiner called “The Power of Touch.” As with most material I read I try to reflect and see if the information pertains to what I’m currently going through or if I can utilize the information for what I’m going through. Then there’s information or stories that just resonate with me.

The above article spoke on scientific reasons why touch matters. And that hits home.
I live in an environment where touch is some parts taboo, restricted and prohibited. Prison causes touch to come under certain scrutiny. If you’re touchy-feely you’re gay or weak (which can lead to a person becoming a prey), if you touch (bump, step on) someone the wrong way it could lead to a fight.
Even still, guys find ways to subliminally feed the need of the skin.
As the article states:“The skin is the largest organ of the body and it has receptors that send messages to the brain. When someone touches you, the sense of being cared for gets transmitted to the brain.”

Maybe this is why basketball is so popular in prison. Sure, there’re some sports lovers, but when you touch someone the hormone oxytocin is released which promotes feelings of trust and well-being. So, it may be something to all the repeated bumping and fooling going on on the court.
Then you see guys with the elaborate handshakes, chest bumps and the traditional slap boxing. I’ve seen guys get hit pretty hard doing slap boxing and it ends in a shake and a hug. It’s not your typical holding the hand of someone you love (which University researchers in Indiana found decreases the stress hormone cortisol), but it is evidence of the outcry of the brain for treatment.

Some experts say the touch deprived is susceptible to health risk. “Their immune cells are reduced, their stress levels are increased, and they experience more pain”, says Tiffany Field, founder of the Touch Research Institute in Miami.

No wonder many men in Ad Seg get depressed, suicidal and have anger problems. In Ad Seg there is no human contact. As we’re seeing, it’s a lot of scientific reasoning behind this.
And it also gives us understanding to why most “prison relationships” don’t last. Most prisoners understand that our mates need companionship, and beside the loneliness there are body and brain urgencies that we now must factor in. It’s a hard knock life.

The article was enlightening and it could also prove good for prison officials and lawmakers when trying to rehabilitate prisoners and promote good behaviour. Just how good could a conjugal visit do for a prisoner and the prison setting? With reward for good behaviour (along with the proper health and security test) we could make prison more euphoric than chaotic. It says a lot towards politicians on how they really want prison to be.

As prisoners, we can’t treat ourselves to a day spa or manicure but perhaps a good handshake or a prayer circle could help. Prisons could have a class to wellness for Body, Mind and Soul where inmates gather to practice such techniques. Sadly, prison is more for inmates harvesting a field of crops than Yoga classes. But, we reap what we sow.

As we move into the future of a rising prison climate, worsening conditions and behaviors that return to society, everyone should re-evaluate just what we ask for when trying to improve our society (inside and out).
The power of touch- is more important than you think.

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