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Folsom Prison Part II

I spent most of the day on Tuesday inside with the inmates, firstly being part of a song share group and then, in the afternoon, giving a "house" concert. Song share happens every Tuesday morning and is an opportunity for inmates to share their own work: songs, prose or poems. Last time I was here there were 16 inmates, this time only 5, as many of the musicians had been transferred to other prisons. (This is often not a good thing for them). It was great to see some familiar faces though, especially one writer called Ken who has had some of his songs recorded on the outside, after being heard by musicians, like me, just passing through. Ken is doing much better since being part of this program.
The afternoon concert was in the protective custody wing with some other familiar faces from my last visit. Songs tend to have different meanings in a place like that and sometimes it's hard to get the words out.
Yesterday afternoon I got a call asking me to go back in last night. Folsom is one of the toughest prisons in the country and one of the toughest areas in Folsom is lockdown. These are mostly guys that have got into trouble inside so they spend all of their time, when they are not in their cells, in cages. Some prisoners have been in lockdown for 16 years. At 5.30 I was taken into a room about 16' x 12' with 8 cages in it, each the size of a phone booth. Usually the guys come down to draw every Wednesday but since I was in town they allowed me to gatecrash to play them some songs. We had a small group last night of only 3 inmates. One by one the guards bought them, shackled, into the room. The cages were opened one at a time and once each man was locked in, the guards would unshackle them. For the next 90 minutes we talked and sang and drew.
A place like this will really get you thinking about so many things. Buts that's for another post...

17 October 2013


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