The Life in Prison in A Place to Stand by Jimmy Bacca

Categories: Literature

A Place to stand is a memoir by Jimmy Bacca, to where he discusses what happened in his life that landed him in prison. Jimmy’s life as a child was not easy. With such a hard childhood, jimmy has many stressors and “baggage” that effect his life choices. Jimmy has a type A personality, which is characterized by “Having a high desire to achieve; are usually extremely competitive, aggressive, impatient and angry; restless movement with their bodies” (Rita Atkinson and Richard Atkinson).

His type a personality often makes him make impulsive decisions, not think straight and ill tempered. Throughout Jimmy’s life his Type a personality mixed with stressors of his past, leads him down the path to prison. Although while trying to manage the stressors he finds various coping strategies. Coping strategies are ways people deal with still according to their knowledge and personality’s; “Part of an individual’s personality is his or hers coping style- or characteristic ways of dealing with the problem- which can effect a stressor consequences” (R.

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& R. Atkinson). Jimmy made certain choices in his life with what little the little coping skills he did know but as the book progresses he develops better coping skills that lead him to a brighter outcome.

Jimmy’s first stressor is his father’s drinking habits and how his father beats his mother while he is intoxicated. Jimmy visits his father in jail with his mother at the age of five. For a child a prison is quite frightening for a child, but it’s for frightening when you don’t understand why your father does what he does to land himself in the jail repeatedly.

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Jimmy uses a maladaptive coping skill called Emotional Masking. Emotional Masking is defined as “what you do to ensure no one ever sees your pain” (McKay). He uses Emotional Masking by hiding his fear of being in a prison in front of his father; “Even as scared as I was by the jail, I wanted to sit on the floor outside the cell bars and hold his hand because he needed me.” Not only did his father’s drinking effect Jimmy, but it would affect his mother. This is important because his mother would blame jimmy for his father’s behavior; “She’d yell, saying she wished I was never born. I thought her sadness was my fault and I’d curl up on the floor in a corner and cry. I would later try to forget every word she said” (page11-12). Time after time Jimmy’s father would return home drunk, start a fight, beat his mother and some nights he would take jimmy and drive while he was drunk.

“I glanced at his swigging from his whisky bottle, and I tried to pretend that none of this was happening. I snuggled deep in the suit coat that covered me. The hum of the engine, that drone of the heater, and the wind blowing past his open window made me drowsy, and eventually I would fall asleep, helpless and sad” (page 13).

One day jimmy’s mother and her boyfriend Richard drove him and his sibling to their grandparent’s house and said that she would be back for them. His mother never did come back.

When his grandfather passed away jimmy and his brother were sent to a religious orphanage.

While in the orphanage he began to resent his mother and father more and more.

“When I asked the nuns if my parents were coming back, I was told the matter was in God’s hands and children shouldn’t ask such questions.

God knew what he was doing. I should consider myself blessed, because God had something special in store for me. I felt lost and confused around grown-ups. They never told the truth. They were always hiding something that would eventually hurt me,” (Page 19).

As each day past, with no sign of his parents coming to get him, he began to cope by being defiant. He began to become physical and would often start fights. After a while of being in the orphanage for a few years he decides to run away, looking back at his choices jimmy says, “My parents never did come, and at thirteen years old I found myself behind bars for the first time, in a detention center for boys. The bars weren’t there to keep us in so much as to remind us that we weren’t really wanted anywhere else,” (Page 20). While Jimmy was in prison he used Emotional Masking again because he knew if he showed the others his fear he would never make Around the age of nineteen he meets a young man around his age named Marcos, they become best friends with each other. Both Jimmy and Marcos become each other’s “partners in crime”, literally, they began to sell weed. After a while they were caught and sentenced to a year in prison. When they had gotten out of prison they met a woman named Lonnie. Jimmy fell in love with Lonnie and finally felt wanted. Marcos and Jimmy began to sell weed again in large quantities! He explained that he had become more paranoid while selling drugs again. He was in fear of going back to prison again. “I was indeed more careful than I have been in San Diego, looking in my rear view mirror ever few minutes, discussing the biz with Marcos only when no others were around, putting my index finger to my lips when Marcos started talking in the café” (page 73). He looked to Lonnie as his social support or the person he confides in. when he is stressed or paranoid he goes to Lonnie because she gives him advise and helps him make better decisions.

Shortly after jimmy and Marcos began to sell weed again they were arrested by a federal agent, stripped and search, beat and imprisoned for 3 month. When they got out of prison for the second time Marcos went to live with his father, jimmy and Lonnie continued their life together until they went to his friend Carries house. That night, Lonnie and jimmy sat in carries kitchen having a few drinks together, sharing a few laughs and just having a good time. Carries roommate Rick came out of the back bedroom when they heard a knock at the door. Rick was selling heroin to an undercover agent, which ended with a shoot-out and jimmy fleeing. Jimmy felt guilty for fleeing so he turned himself in to the police… He remembers driving to Albuquerque before turning himself in and he said, “I was supposed to be driving this road with Lonnie to get married and settle down and prove to everyone how I had made it and how wrong they were about me… Now everyone could point and say, I knew it. I told you. He’s no good. He’s nothing but a criminal. It hurt to admit they were right. Still, I wanted to explain to someone that it was all a mistake. All I ever wanted was to have what others had. I didn’t want sympathy or pity. I just wanted a fair go at the things they had,” (page 87-88).

He is sentenced to five years in a maximum security prison. He receives a letter from Lonnie and it said she had fallen in love with Carrie while he was last in prison and she is sorry for everything. Jimmy copes with this news the same way he coped with his father’s drinking, and his mother’s hurtful words; he forces himself to forget about it.

Throughout jimmy’s 5 years of prison after a while his type a personality gets the best of him. He becomes more impulsive, angry and violent while he is in prison. He had injured, maimed and even murdered a man. Because of these actions he was put into solitary consignment. He coped with being in a small cell by using behavioral strategies such as exercise and meditation. Behavioral strategies can be defined as, “engaging in physical exercise, alcohol and drug abuse venting anger and or seeking emotional support from friends” (Uba and Huang).

Gregory of Sinai explained what meditation is and how you accomplish it, “Sit down alone and in silence. Lower your head, shut your eyes, breath out gently, and imagine imagine yourself looking into your own heart… Try to put all other thoughts aside. Be calm, be patient, and repeat this frequently.” Jimmy recalled his childhood and what he wished he could change but mostly he recalled memories of Estancia and his mother. While he was in solitary confinement he decided that he wanted to get his GED and make something of himself. When he had is appearance with the court they denied his request and that his sentence was being restarted. Jimmy decided to rebel and refuse to do anything they asked but to sit in his room and read.

Through his deviance and stubbornness Jimmy copes with this stress by teaching himself how to read and write, and plays a guitar, sent by his brothers fiancé, to keep himself calm. He expresses himself through writing poetry. He wrote a poem about being in prison: …Did you tell them? Hell is not a dream And that you have been there? Did you tell them? (Page 232) Jimmy often wrote to keep himself calm and not make thing any worse for himself. He expressed himself and coped with being in jail, getting denied his GED and starting his sentence over again through writing. He had a skill called positive belief, he believed he was more than just a con, he didn’t look at the negative as much he focused on the positive. He said, “My writing became the receptacle of my sorrow. I wrote even when I didn’t want to, because I knew that, if I didn’t, my sorrow would come out in violence” (page234).

Even though he was making it harder on himself by defying the warden’s request he made something of himself when he had been released from jail. While being in jail jimmy used many coping skills that he had developed. He had utilized emotional masking, social support, behavioral strategies such as health and exercise, meditation, positive belief, material resources such as writing with paper and a pen also playing the guitar and control of his anger. Despite his type a personality he learned to cope in a way that it productive for him. If he never learned the coping skills that work for him, his personality would take him over. There would be no progress.


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The Life in Prison in A Place to Stand by Jimmy Bacca. (2022, Apr 05). Retrieved from

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