Posts Tagged ‘inside-out’

Once in a while, a man in prison excels at writing. Such a man was Mike. I gave him a few principles of writing and off he went. Soon his talent was as good as mine – no, he was better than me.

Mike and I decided to write a book together. We would call it Inside/Out. He, the insider, would say that prison did do some good for guys, even though there were problems. He would not write boring treatises, rather he would tell the stories of individuals. As for me, the outsider, I would stand against the whole prison system and tell stories of how it had ruined the lives of several people.

I wrote my part of the book and Mike wrote his. We were both finished and ready to put together a book. But something happened. Mike came up for parole, but he was rejected because his roommate had a cellphone. That sounds crazy and impossible, but that’s exactly what happened. The cellphone was on Mike’s side of his two man cell, but everyone knew that it belonged not to Mike, but to the roommate.

Mike got a year and a half more in prison. More programs to take even though he’d already taken them. We taxpayers spent $50,000 keeping him there. He was the poster-person for the fact that prison exists mostly for the sake of the staff and the guards.

Mike decided that he no longer liked what he had written for our book. In effect, he said I was right, that prison helped no one. He scrapped his section and started over and, in my opinion, he did a much better job this time.

As with any book that’s written by more than one person, there’s usually conflict. And so it was with Mike and I. Mike felt bad that his section was longer than mine, much longer. But I argued that I was comfortable with my section. I told my story with as many words as I wanted. If I were to make my section longer, it would clearly go against the rule to ‘cut the fat.’

So we published Dystopia and it’s done well on the market. It’s my story of going to prison and it’s Mike’s. He was arrested in Mexico for smuggling drugs and served two years in a Mexican prison and then eight years in a Canadian prison. Mike’s out now and has been for four years. He’s got a little entertainment business and works as an MC on occasion.

Even the word Dystopia I learned from an inmate, a man who called himself the only Jewish inmate in the whole prison.

Dystopia is a society of human misery, squalor, disease, terror and overcrowding. It is the opposite of Utopia.

One day a man walked into my class in prison. He didn’t really walk in, more he slid in to the centre of the room and said, “Relax everyone, Mike is here to entertain you.”

I learned long ago to work with people and not to impose harsh class room rules. I soon discovered that he was a great writer – he knew things by instinct that it had taken me years to learn.

We decided to write a book together, called Inside-Out. I, the outsider, thought prison was dystopia, a place void of value, a deep, dark depressing part of the planet. He, the insider, was going to say, “Hang on a minute here, Ed, prison does some good for some people.”

ParoleMike came up for parole. A few days before, another inmate had an illegal cell phone and put it in Mike’s belongings, camouflaged in a sock.

The guards found it. They asked Mike about it. He said, “It’s not even my sock.”cell phone

Nonetheless, Mike was denied parole, even though everyone knew it wasn’t his cell phone. The true owner of the phone was released a month later and Mike spent another year and a half in prison. The cost to taxpayers for that was $50,000 dollars.

Mike rewrote his part of the book. He agreed with me. Prison was Dystopia. The book is his story of crime and redemption and it’s my story of entering prison to cause a revolution, which is not what happened.

For the next few days the E-Book version of Dystopia is free from Smashwords. If you’re interested, check out the previous post on this blog.Dystopia

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