Readers are often curious about the idea of a book. Where did it come from? How did it grow from an infant notion to a full blown novel? Sometimes, the answer to that question can be a little lackluster. (Yup. I totally used the word ‘lackluster’ in a sentence at 4:51 AM. It probably has something to do with the fact that I haven’t had any coffee yet, so I’m overcompensating to sound smart. HA! That was a pretty smart answer for someone with no caffeine in her system. Um, yeah, so anyway…) My guest this week has an answer that is anything but lacking. Ed Griffin has a strong moral belief that is truly unique and an informative pleasure to read. Ed, please share the thoughts that kicked off your current novel?
“You’re against prison, Griffin. So what’s your answer?” Over and over, I’ve heard that question from people I know. Sometimes it isn’t direct, but they hinted at it, like they’ll tell me about a horrific crime and wait for my reaction.
Yes, I’m against prison. I’ve taught in prisons for twenty-three years, first in a maximum-security prison in Wisconsin and now in a high medium-security prison in British Columbia, Canada.
“Hey, Jake, I heard you busted into an ATM machine. Tell me how. I want to learn.” That’s a conversation I overheard in prison. Like people say, it’s a crime school. Young cons learn from older cons. It reminds me of the prison saying, “I came to jail with a masters in marijuana and left with a doctorate in heroin.”
And it’s a warehouse. Old Alex is in his early seventies. His job is to sweep the walkway every day. He loves to stop you as you’re walking by and chat. He’s such a pleasant old man, I asked an inmate why he was here. “I don’t know what he did, but he had a small bit, maybe seven years. First he broke parole, then when he got to minimum, he heard his daughter was in the hospital, so he just took off. This happened a couple of times. The last time I think it was dementia. He was in minimum, walked out the gate, bought an ice cream at the local store and walked back to the prison. They put him back in high security and extended his sentence.”
Prison is a taxpayer rip-off. If politicians could find their way to libraries, they would discover in section 364, criminology, that prison doesn’t work as a way to stop crime. Even wardens will admit that only fifteen to twenty percent of the inmates in their prisons need to be there. Yet the prison-industrial-complex cries for more prisons and longer sentences.
“So, Griffin, you’re against prison. What’s your answer?” Do I give a lecture every time I meet someone? No. I write. First I wrote Prisoners of the Williwaw, a novel about three hundred hardened inmates and their families on a terrible island in the Aleutians. The hero tries to build a decent society. Then I wrote a non-fiction book with an inmate, called Dystopia. We both tell our stories of prison, mine of teaching there, his of two years in a Mexican prison and eight years in a Canadian one. You’d be surprised which one he liked better.
Currently I’m trying to show in novel form what a future prison might look like and I don’t allow one preaching word to enter the story. I just show what happens if we were to set up a ‘humane’ prison. It’s called Delaney’s Hope and I’m on the final edit.
Find Ed online at
Personal Blog http://edgriffin.net/
Writer’s Write Daily Blog http://writerswritedaily.wordpress.com/
Prison Uncensored Blog http://prisonuncensored.wordpress.com/
Thanks so much for sharing, Ed. I find your career and the experiences its provided very intriguing and cannot wait to see what Delaney’s Hope has to offer in the way of a ‘humane’ prison system.