Archive for November, 2012

Grapes of wrathIn the movie version of Grapes of Wrath, Ma Joad worries that prison has changed her son, Tommy (Henry Fonda). She asks, “Did they hurt you an’ make you mean-mad?”

Tommy reassures her, “No, Ma. I was at first, but not no more.”

Still she probes more, “Sometimes they do somethin’ to you. They hurt you and you get mad, and then you get mean and they hurt you again and you get meaner and meaner–till you ain’t no boy nor man any Ma Joadmore–just a ole walkin’ chunk a mean-mad. Did they hurt you that way, son?”

The incident is in the book as well, but in a slighter different format.

I’m afraid that there are a lot of mean-mad-s walking around on our streets, men and women who have survived the prison system, but are angry at life and angry at authority after what they’ve gone through. Some men, however, seem to survive prison with good grace and they could say Henry Fondawith Tommy, “No, Ma, I ain’t no mean-mad.”

In my opinion, prison produces far more mean-mad-s than it does good citizens. What’s your opinion?

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Posted: November 20, 2012 by Ed Griffin in Uncategorized
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freeThis Wednesday and Thursday, November 21 and 22, my novel, Beyond the Vows, will be free on

Spirituality is found beyond the church, not in the church. The church is a school.  You learn your lessons and then you graduate and become an adult Christian.

In Beyond the Vows I fictionalized the story of my own five years as a Catholic priest. “The young priest sets out to save the world, but soon discovers that he’s the one who needs saving. He tries to have his church confront modern problems, but he finds that money rules. On his journey to the light he meets a greedy bishop, a philosopher-theologian janitor, a courageous young woman and a wild ex-nun. He tries to replace the fierce God Beyond the Vowsof his childhood with a God of love. Even though he pours himself into parish work, a deep void still eats at his heart. He is alone.”

What is love? Where is God? Why celibacy? When do you follow your conscience and not the church? These are the questions of Beyond the Vows.

Even if you don’t have an E-book, you can download this book to your computer and read it there. Here is the link to the book:

Kindle for PC: Read eBooks on Your Computer – No Kindle Device Required

The Kindle for PC app lets you read eBooks and e-textbooks on your PC.

abuse in residential schoolsYears ago a very quiet, polite man came to me after class one day. He waited until everyone else had left the classroom.

I had made a negative comment about the residential schools the government forced on first nations young people. I thought the man was going to confirm my comments about how terrible the schools were.

But he didn’t. He and his wife taught in one of the schools. “You know, Ed, they weren’t all bad. I tried hard to teach a good course and…well, it was a different era.”

The man was embarrassed that he had taught there.

This started me thinking about the relationship of the residential schools to our prisons today. Of course, most of the people in prison are guilty of a crime and that’s one big difference.

A hundred years ago residential schools were considered the right course of action. Very few people asked questions like, “Is it right to take children from their parents, from their culture?” Most people assumed it was right.

Today we pay compensation to those who were hurt through the residential schools. Turning to prisons, in the recent case of Ashley SmithAshley Smith that we talked about last week, no doubt the government will have to pay compensation for what happened. Will this continue? Will people get compensation because they contracted a dangerous disease while in prison? Will they get compensation because guards bullied them? What about being raped as many male and female inmates are?

There are people who try to do a good job in prison, teachers, psychologists, general staff. Will they prison industrial complex. Who profits?be embarrassed by the fact that they once worked there? Will the pharmacists, the grocery people, the rural unemployed, the people in the prison-industrial complex, will they feel bad because people suffered under a system that they profited from?

What about the volunteer teachers of creative writing? Are they guilty, too?


I don’t know. I’d like your opinion.

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Ashley SmithI was very upset this week with the story of Ashley Smith and the absolutely gruesome pictures of what the staff did to her. The young woman’s crime? Throwing crabapples at a postal worker. Prison officials kept adding on to her short sentence for misconduct. She was moved from prison to prison seventeen times.

I worry that the problem is more widespread than just those few officers and the warden and deputy warden who were fired over this incident.

Most would admit that there is a clear US and THEM in prison. How can one group help another change when there is almost us/thema war going on between them? Are prison staff required to learn psychology?  Are they given sensitivity training? When a parole officer spends an hour telling a newly-released inmate that he’s going to fail, what is that? When the officer brings up every bad thing the inmate’s ever done and no mention of his abilities, is that a form of abuse? If a psychologist in prison ignores an inmate’s greeting and walks right by him, what is that? When guards openly imitate a hearing/speaking challenged man behind his back, is that abuse? And when an inmate tries to report this, he is told to forget it for his own health.

What’s going on in our prisons? Those who resist change cry that people will lose their jobs. No, they won’t, not if they’re willing to take courses, to take on sensitivity training. It’s up to the staff to change first.

For those not from Canada, the articles and videos are here:

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