Two Creative Guys

Posted: March 28, 2012 by Ed Griffin in Prison
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A few years ago two creative men stirred my creative writing class in prison with idea after idea. They came up with creative writing projects, with proposals to the prison administration, and even with ideas for TV shows.Creative People

They were good friends not only in the classroom but in the gym and in sports. Jack was the boxer and the storyteller, while Andrew was the humorist. Andrew didn’t have the physique Jack had, but he tried hard. (not their real names)

One night Jack heard a disturbance in the cell next to his. He got up and saw three men beating up Andrew. Jack broke up the fight.

Prison officials followed usual procedure and put everyone in segregation until they could figure out what had happened. It turned out that Andrew had made enemies in the prison, reason unknown, but some suspected that his success in criminal ventures had stirred jealousy.

Jack was released from segregation the next day. Andrew was moved to the federal prison set aside for those who needed protective custody.

Officials scheduled release for the two men at roughly the same time, but Andrew got out first. I met him for coffee and we talked. I knew he was headed back into crime and I argued and pleaded with him. A few weeks later we were to meet again for coffee. He stood me up and I knew my influence was over.

Jack got out almost a year later. He was a changed man, but he said it was the writing that had helped him, more than the prison. That, and our friendship, for he and I had become good friends. While he was in prison, we wrote a book together.

We met for coffee when he was released. He told me that Andrew had set aside a gift for him in the tens of thousands of dollars. Of course, I opposed him accepting it, but Jack already had reservations about it. He knew the money came from crime and accepting it meant he would join his old friend in new criminal ventures.

Jack turned the money down. He struggled for a few years, but has now built a little entertainment company. He works hard, but he’s happy.

Andrew did well in crime. He made a lot of money in drugs and in financial crimes. He had a child with a young woman Engagement Partyand he’d planned an invitation-only engagement party in a downtown restaurant. Guests started arriving for the evening event. A friend drove Andrew and his fiancé there, but as they neared the restaurant, a volley of bullets slammed into the car, killing Andrew, but sparing his partner.

I planned to attend the funeral and I asked Jack if he’d like to come with me.

“I’m so bleeping mad at Andrew. A creative guy, gunned down and it’s his own bleeping fault. No, Ed, I can’t go. It will be a gang event and I want no part of it.”

He was right. The pallbearers looked like the muscle from a gang and the usual undercover police stood outside the Pall bearerscemetery taking pictures of who was there.

Every time I drive by the cemetery, my heart aches for Andrew. I guess I should be mad at the prison system for failing to change him over his seven-year sentence, but I’m just sad. Creativity is buried there, innovative ideas in business or the arts, dead in a gangland shooting. How sad.


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  1. Not everyone can be saved, Ed. and 1 out of 2 ain’t bad.

  2. Joanne says:

    Very sad story but I agree with Danielle. The things you are able to do have a huge impact and not everyone is always ready for change when you offer a way out.

  3. marcella says:

    You know you have the right idea Ed. It’s just that you’re up against more than just prison reform. We have to throw out the drawings and start all over.
    If, from a young age, a person is given a safe and loving environment at home and at school chances are they would not choose to pursue a life of crime and would not require the camaraderie and or protection of a gang. Think about it. We are not required to be educated or licensed to have children, then our governments are constantly hacking at our education system. Who wants to be a teacher in this day and age? There is little respect for education or the arts. Although we seem to like sports it can still be stupid expensive to put a kid in a sport like hockey. I was told quite matter-of-factly though, by a lawyer friend, that as expensive as it seems, invest in your children while they are young. Pay now or pay later in legal costs. As a society we have cut costs in all the wrong places and some of us parents have failed misserably too and NOW we’re sinking a poop load into our courts and prisons. It is not a FIX. It is only perpetrating the negative cycle.
    It is a societal matter. We need to protect our children. Ensure their rights. But as smart as we are, we are bound to screw that up too by creating a fiasco like the boarding school nightmare of our first nations children.
    As usual. I have written myself into a corner.

  4. mike oulton says:

    jack is a very handsome man…
    he must be a very valuable member of society now with all of his engaging talents and calm demeanor.
    Its amazing that andrew was a quitter.
    He was such a strong guy, but lacked confidence unfortunately.
    just so you know… jack loves you dearly.
    He told me once that you were the best person to come into his life.
    wanna do coffee?
    i’ll invite jack;)

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