The Sun Singer's Travels

Malcolm R. Campbell's World

Hope in a Texas prison

“This [creative writing] class has helped me in so many ways. I’ve found healing, a way to live with my situation, and hope. The class has allowed me to be heard, to leave behind proof of my existence, and has given me a way to preserve my name. I no longer feel like I’m just a number—I now have a voice.” – Kevin Murphy in Heartbreaking True Stories from Inside Texas Prisons

Out of right, out of mind. That’s probably our view of prisoners except when they break out or are released and immediately commit a new crime. We don’t hear about the others because they don’t show up on the evening news.

The bastards deserve to be in there. We probably think that, too, and the notion that prisoners are scum is reinforced for us on most cop shows where a leading character (cop or lawyer) goes to a prison to talk to a con who is usually portrayed as somebody who doesn’t deserve to be in the world.

There’s a world inside those bars, though. It made my day to read about Deb Olin Unferth’s (Wait Till You See Me Dance) writing workshops presented at a maximum security prison in Texas. And then, my day became a bit sad when I read what three prisoners had to say in the article cited above.

As an author, I have no special qualifications or resume material to make judgements about why the U.S., with 5% of the world’s population, has 25% (2.4 million) of the world’s prison population, how much it costs to house all these people, and why the conditions in these prisons–as bad as they seem to be–lure to many prisoners back with the commission of new crimes after serving their time and being released.

Perhaps if they had chance to learn something that really helps them, as opposed to making license plates, fewer of them would end up going back. Whatever we’re doing isn’t working. Deb Olin Unferth’s workshops sounds like a step in the right direction.

–Malcolm

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