Each of my students in prison affected me in a certain way. I called one man, My Mirror Image.

Davi was about my age, 58 back then. We were similar in artificial ways, about the same weight, the same height etc. But one day he mentioned a word that caught my attention, “Selma.”  He too had been in Selma, marching for the rights of black Americans.

I was a dual citizen of Canada and the United States, he was an American who had entered Canada in a very wrong way. The FBI and the drug squad were literally on his heels, so he took over a rural border crossing with a gun.

As we talked, we discovered that we shared a lot of beliefs, from picketing for the grape boycott to what America should look like.

There were also many differences between us. I went home at night and he didn’t. He was raised by a series of foster homes and I was raised by a loving Irish Catholic family. I did not believe in violence and apparently he did. But the more I talked to him, I knew he could change. It would take time and long discussions about change and freedom and respect. I also knew that nothing in prison was going to help him.

He was an excellent poet, who could put so much in a few lines of poetry, ideas that would take me an essay each to convey.

Canada turned him over to the US, who offered him a deal – give them a list of all his drug connections and he’d get a lighter sentence. He refused and he’s now in his seventies in a federal prison in Oregon. If he’s anything like me in his seventies, doing crime does not seem like a good idea. The cops are not his enemies anymore, type 2 diabetes is.

Crime is individual and prison should be also.

What is your opinion? Should he have given the authorities a list of his drug connections? Could a prison help him?

  1. 1. No. In any case, the bargain he was offered was not reliable; “authorities” in these situations commonly lie.
    2. Not likely, since they are not likely to try.

  2. Heather says:

    Interesting read. My thought is pehaps he’d be before a different “court” if he handed over a list of names – and the judging would not come down in his favour. In fact, handing over a list might be punishable by death. There more courts in life than the judicial one as we know it.

    • Joy says:

      Certainly a difficult dilemma! He seemed to have two choices: hold the names and live his life out in prison or give the names and die sooner rather later in prison or out of prison at the hands of the persons who owned those names. He seems like a thoughtful person and has chosen to live his life the way he has chosen. I respect his decision and wish he would write lots of poetry, and I regret he has to live in prison. Change is an internal job, and perhaps he has enough insight to change on his own. One hopes for the best….!

    • Ed Griffin says:

      I like your comment, Heather, that there are many courts in our lives

  3. jcommittedk says:

    What a sad story! But unfortunately not uncommon. I say good for him for sticking to his convictions (pun was truly unintended). There a more like him who truly believe that they will earn their freedom fairly or not at all.

    I think it is the prison system that needs to decide whether they are making the correct decisions in such cases. I mean do we really want a bunch of people free who would sell their neighbour down the river to save their own hide? Conversely, is it a good idea to keep incarcerated men with integrity after we know that they are no longer a threat to society, just because they do not share our values?

  4. Catana says:

    In other words, he was offered a plea deal: We’re willing to go easy on you if you’re willing to be a snitch. And he wasn’t. Good for him. That takes a hell of a lot of courage, especially if, you seem to indicate, he was already familiar with prison and knew what it would be like.

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