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Articles Tagged ‘Prisons and Prisoners’

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Locked-in Syndrome

Saturday, May 3rd, 2008

Conjunction of events at the mailbox yesterday afternoon: I received a remarkable letter from a prisoner I’ve known for some years who is 42 and locked-in (in what is called Administrative Segregation or Ad Seg–spends his life literally in a cage surrounded by the din of other men locked into cages all around him); and I received my rental of Julian Schnabel’s brilliant production of The Diving Bell and the Butterfly , which is about Jean Dominique Bauby, who had “Locked-in Syndrome” (he could hear and understand everything, but he was completely paralyzed and unable to move any part of his body but his left eye) as a result of a stroke he suffered when he was 42. [read on]


Thursday, February 28th, 2008

This hot news item got my attention. It points to the execrably stupid fact that the USA incarcerates more people per capita than anywhere else in the world. This is an invitation to my friends John Speer (who is on the verge of gigantic life changes and may not have time) and Stephen Brody to chime in on this topic, about which they are quite knowledgable. Anyone else with strong feelings, opinions, knowledge, or experience of the subject is welcome to have their say, too.

Upaya: Day 3 of the time of my life

Saturday, July 28th, 2007

It ought to be illegal to have this much fun. I’m deliriously happy, and delirious might be exactly the right word, but I don’t care. Happy works for me. Today I’ve cleaned five bathrooms with toilets, assisted at two meals and washed dishes, nursed a very sick Humaya (vomiting, headache, fever–but she’s better now after rosemary tea, peppermint tea, and a long time breathing with Kendall’s cold hands on her head: “Your hands so cool, they feel like water, Ma.”), and what else. Meditated twice so far; second time it was just Dawa and me. Oh yeah, best of all, cleaned up after lunch and then swept and mopped the kitchen and serving room floor with Soham, the coolest guy I’ve met yet. My altitude issues have passed, and I feel terrific. Want to hear more about all of this? [read on]

Freedom to walk through some doors

Wednesday, July 4th, 2007

Alan Johnston is free, and his words move me. In his press conference he says, “Maybe you have to have been a prisoner of some kind for some time to know how good it is to be able to do the most basic, basic things that freedom allows–like to get a haircut, to drink what you want, to walk through some doors, to speak to people that you love…” I think of the prisoners I love, the men who edit The Midnight Special (next edition coming out as soon as we get it copied and mailed). “To walk through some doors…” after years of sliding steel, banging steel, metal bars, steel grids, handcuffs, chains, and triple-thick plexiglass windows, just the wonder of being able to walk through some doors. Freedom. I think about the doors in free people’s lives, doors both literal and metaphorical. [read on]

Voicing the enemy

Monday, May 28th, 2007

Spent six hours today doing the layout for the next issue of The Midnight Special, the magazine of prisoners’ writing edited by the men in the Thursday-night creative writing workshop. I’m very excited about this issue, which I (ahem!) recommend to everyone. One of the pieces that moves me most came from an assignment based on Gloria Anzaldua’s “We Call Them Greasers.” [read on]

Silence, Listening, Censorship, Media

Friday, April 27th, 2007

Twice this morning I have written a new blog posting about two things: the workshop at the prison last night, and Amy Goodman’s speech at the Oscar Romero Awards this past Sunday, which I heard rebroadcast on the radio as I was driving home from the prison. Twice, as I neared the end of my post, I accidentally hit a wrong key that navigated me away from my post and erased everything I’d just written. When that happens twice, I have to take stock. What do I NEED to say? Can I be more succinct? The clock is ticking. [read on]

The Midnight Special Shines Its Ever-lovin’ Light

Friday, February 23rd, 2007

Thanks to Kate, at Bootsnall, for mentioning our prisoners’ literary magazine in her Volunteer Logue. We now have 510 prisoners who get free subscriptions to The Midnight Special, and 17 free people who donate $10 for a year’s subscription. It would (ahem!) be really nice if more people who aren’t in prison would subscribe. There’s more about the magazine on the website for The Prison Show, a Houston radio program for prisoners and their families. The main thing I think the magazine has to offer people who aren’t in prison is literature strong enough to jerk our heads around (and up out of whatever other areas they might have been stuck in). In addition to that, every free-world subscription provides ten prisoners with a magazine and gives them a chance to read what other prisoners have written. [read on]

Prime evil

Tuesday, January 16th, 2007

As I continue reading about Argentina’s dirty war, I am reminded of South Africa’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission and the hearings that it held during the years I lived there, while Mandela was President. Feitlowitz’s Lexicon of Terror features a whole chapter on Adolfo Scilingo, who holds a similar space in Argentine history to the space held by Eugene de Kok (also de Kock and de Koch, also nicknamed “Prime Evil”) in South Africa. Both were enthusiastic torturers and murderers, both followed orders, both did what they did for “love” of what they thought was right, both later felt horrible and confessed to unspeakable actions, and both are living out their lives in prison while the men who were their superiors die free, one by one. The main difference between the two men is that Scilingo tried to get out of the punishment phase of this story; he recanted his confession; de Kok, on the other hand, has become a model of enduring remorse.

A Dirty War

Sunday, January 14th, 2007

Where were you from 1976 to 1983? What did you know, in those years, about the “war on terror?” This was a war, its leaders said, to protect homeland security; a war for family values, Christian values, and clean-living innocent people, against enemy insurgents, terrorists, subversives, non-believers, homosexuals, Jews, Communists, union organizers, and radicals in universities and the arts. [read on]

The Midnight Special

Monday, December 25th, 2006

Here’s some shameless holiday promotion for a cause I believe in: in January the first issue of The Midnight Special, a fledgling literary magazine for Texas prisoners, edited by prisoners in the writing workshop John Speer and I have been running for three years, will appear: just as soon as our friends at the Henry David Thoreau Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Fort Bend County, Texas (Thoreau for short), get it produced and mailed out. Subscriptions to the new magazine, to be published twice a year, are free for prisoners and available to people in the free world for a $10 donation within the USA, $13 for international air mail. At the moment we have nearly 200 subscriptions from prisoners but a scant 5 (count ’em, 5) from free-world people, so we’d sure like to see a few more subscriptions roll in. We need the donations to finance the paper and postage for the prisoners’ subscriptions after our support from an anonymous donor runs out. We don’t yet have a way to take donations online, but I’ll include the postal address at the end of this blog entry. [read on]