We’re always surprised at the talented people we trip across in the course of our work. While we were conducting a memoir writing workshop for Charter Oak Cultural Center a few months back, we discovered Ralph Gagliardo. This is the essay he wrote. Remember, good writing is all about letting people into our world. And this is a world most of us would prefer only to read about. See if you agree.
Prison—A place where persons are confined (Webster’s)
It has recently come to my attention that my baby’s mama (for lack of a better term) has been placed under arrest and is now a member of the female population at York C.I. in Niantic. Having been recently released in October myself I cannot honestly say that this is such a bad thing. Although many of us choose not to admit this (especially to law enforcement,) going to prison is not the worst thing that can happen to a person.
It is a sad fact that within the prison multitudes, there is a small percentage that makes a conscious decision to go in for the winter, as opposed to wrestling with the cold weather and overcrowded shelters. In prison-speak, this phenomenon is often referred to as “throwing in the brick.” Is this really a viable solution for the problems related to chronic addiction and homelessness? Of course, the answer should be…no.
As Americans we probably live better in prison that many residents do in a good majority of third world countries. That fact notwithstanding, what I am talking about is the saving of lives. As in M.B.’s case, her once joyful radiant beauty was left sadly diminished by crack and heroin, leaving her emaciated and gaunt, skin loosely clinging to a skeletal frame, sunken eyes unable to hide the desperate loneliness of a private hell. Her strong will making her a prisoner; in a prison of addiction. The brick and mortar prison will give her freedom, or at least a temporary reprieve.
I have personally experienced this metamorphosis and been witness to countless transformations of malnourished unhealthy addicts, who like myself, had been through a gamut of detox and rehab options, only to find myself getting real meaningful clean time only after a brief (or not so brief) stint in the Hoosegow. This being said, I still steadfastly refuse to use the term “Department of Corrections.” Not only is it an obvious misnomer but the words “department” and Corrections” should be forever banned from occupying the same space in a sentence, and, only in the same paragraph if done skillfully by someone as well-versed in the literary arts, Faulkner or Hemmingway perhaps……..
(cut for brevity)
What I am simply trying to point out is that prison saves an awful lot of people: sometimes from themselves. So what I am suggesting is before we judge, stereotype or otherwise entertain negative thoughts towards those in prison, recently released, or even with criminal records, perhaps we should take a brief moment, consider our own lives…and ask ourselves…what prison have I put myself in? A wall does not a prison make.