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Entries in Prison (1)

Tuesday
Mar272012

Coyote Ridge Blues

The CRCC library. Escape from Alcatraz, not allowed. Last week I had my most interesting book event to date, inside the walls of the Coyote Ridge Corrections Center.

Corrections Center is a delicate way of saying prison. It's not a Supermax. Nor is it even old-school like Walla Walla. But it is a real-deal federal penitentiary where nearly 2,400 inmates are serving sentences from five years to life (and as Prince once said, "Electric word, life, it means forever and that's a mighty long time").

I was invited by a wonderful prison librarian named—actually, her name is identical to an actor on Little House on the Prairie. I'll let you figure it out. Only this is a Big House on the Prairie, with biometric key-logging and concertina wire.

And oh, how I wish I could show you pictures, but phones, cameras, and wallets, aren't allowed—nothing that could be MacGyvered into some other device. And yes, the security was impressive, but not necessarily foreboding, even when I visited one of the units (cell blocks) where more than one-hundred and fifty prisoners were hanging out.

The book gig itself was held in the Visitation Center and honestly, it was a joy to be there. I was impressed by how interesting, well-read, and thoughtful these guys were. They had deep questions about metaphor and symbolism, race relations, and of course, queries about the craft or writing. Granted, everyone was on their best behavior, but it was apparent that books are an amazing common denominator. And prison libraries (and the people that work there) are making this sad, battered world a better place.

Readers are readers, wherever they are, regardless concrete walls and razor wire.