I have long been fascinated by criminals. I’ve met those who were about as sharp as a marble. This one guy robbed a bank and wrote his note “This is a hold-up” on back of one of his own deposit slips, or there was the one who dropped his pager as he made his escape.
I’ve met those who claimed they were charter members of Mensa, the largest and oldest high IQ society in the world. The one I knew personally is serving 25 years with the possibility of more in an FBI-headed supermax prison with Ted Kaczynski, aka the Unabomber.
But most, turn out to be fairly ordinary blokes who did something stupid for money or for love/lust.
According to the agents, officers, deputies and narcs I know most criminals will be in and out of jail their entire lives.
“Mississippi Prison Writing,” a new book by Vox press tells the other side of the story. It’s essays, diaries and poetry coming from the minds of those stuck behind the walls of Parchman.
As the Innocence Project once quoted, “Today, incarcerated people at Parchman still work in the same fields that their enslaved ancestors once plowed and tended.”
The book speaks of lost souls, who once they sobered up, became drug free, or just realized the real situation they were in — opened up their hearts and described their daily life inside the Big House.
One who was serving a life sentence explained his position, somewhat like that old Townes Van Zandt song “Waitin’ Around to Die.” The prisoner said, “I’ve given up; I don’t have a reason for my existence anymore. So what am I doing? I guess I’m sitting here waiting to die.”
For most, like a female inmate, one day is just like the day before. There is not much fun going on behind these walls.
She said, “I won’t lie. I’m not looking forward to writing in this journal for another two weeks. It feels like a chore to me right now. Mainly because my days are redundant. I feel like my thoughts are, too. Because my schedule is so routine, I don’t feel like I’m contributing anything fresh or new. I guess I’m just rambling, and who would want to read that? No one! I don’t even want to write it! Hopefully tomorrow will be more eventful, and I’ll have more to say. But today was bland. I woke up, took a shower after lunch (after waiting over an hour because we only have three showers for 145 women), fixed something to eat out of my locker, watched a few reality shows on TV, and wrote this paragraph, and now I’ll probably go back to sleep.”
Some seem changed. Although I know someone incarcerated will say and do anything to get out. But I’d give this fellow the benefit of the doubt. He said,
“I’m ashamed of myself in a way, for it took a trip to prison to change how I deal with others. Now I have a different outlook on life. So can anything good come out of a prison? Yes, it gave me a chance to reinvent myself.”
And with the truth bare and vivid, for some this is the end of the line.
“The main focus of attention was riveted upon the switch. You knew this was the instrument that was to deliver the coup de grace once the switch was thrown, with the electricity flowing through out your entire body. You began your dance with death, and you started on the journey into the Abyss.”
“Mississippi Prison Writing” is a collection of truth which will stay with you.