City Prison Writers

by David Coogan

With a new bag of pens and some legal pads, I invited the men to write their ways out. I did not teach the guys who could not write their names—the ones with deficits, disorders, dementia, or some intractable disaffection. There were no serial killers, complete psychos or pedophiles. I didn’t go to reach the unreachable. I didn’t want to be a hero. My currency was common sense.  I refused to believe they were always and forever products of some environment. But I also refused to believe they owned every choice that got made in their lives. Five months into the workshop, a core group had emerged: Ron Fountain, Stan Craddock, Andre Simpson, Greg Carter, Chuck Hicks, Kelvin Belton, Naji Mujahid and Dean Turner. These were the ones who kept writing after our time at the jail had come to an end, sending me drafts from prison, keeping me up to date on their progress into their new lives even when they found it hard to write. And these were the ones who helped expand the idea of the workshop: in prison, Kelvin sent Terence Scruggs; Naji sent Brad Greene, Kyle Brown and Tony Martin. Phase Two, the correspondence course had began like that.

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