Prison Commentary: Exonerees & Struggling Relationships - Week 13

Course: HNRS 302: Extreme Punishments: Life, Death, & Solitary Confinement
Written: April 10, 2014 

Published: March 6, 2017
© All Rights Reserved

Written during Destiny's junior year of college, Destiny poignantly provides commentary and reflection on readings for the week for a University Honors course titled "Extreme Punishments." Each reading required the illumination of the following 4 structure components: takeway(s), a free write, a quotation(s) of interest, and a question(s).

Week 13: Among Murderers (Ch 12-Epilogue)

Takeaways

  • Two common theme in prisoners’ lives: poor childhoods and violent pasts
  • Some prisoners struggle with building intimate relationships
  • Prisoners are often very introspective and reflective when writing
  • Police brutality is a form of inexcusable prison injustice and harsh treatment
  • Job employment for ex-prisoners remains a struggle

Free write


XI. Casualties

Bruce had a bad childhood, like Angel. As a result, this leads to poor academic and social relationships (pg. 128). Louie’s childhood has similarities to Bruce and Angel’s.


XII. The New Coat

On the way to Men’s Wearhouse, Bruce attempts to swindle the ladies while walking on the street (pg. 130). I laughed to myself at Heinlein’s description of him being “sidetracked” by them.


XIII. A Haunted House

I was surprised to read that Angel was introverted at the Halloween party. Maybe he felt uncomfortable with the “gory feel” or perhaps he was just unsocial that day (pg. 142).


XIV. Waiting for Nothing

It was interesting to read Angel’s journal entries, especially when he used personification to describe the City’s “majestic beauty of her skyline.” (pg. 156).


XV. Growing Old

Who would have thought that wine reminded Angel of death? It’s amazing how perceptions and past experiences shape beliefs (pg. 161). Angel discussed prison brutality from the guards at Attica, reconfirming the injustice in the prison system (pg. 164).


XVI. Silent Forgiveness

Heinlein expresses that rehabilitation is nearly impossible in prison (pg. 173). This is understandable, since prison conditions deteriorate one’s soul, instead of improving or rehabilitating it.


XVII. Lies and Good Luck

When Bruce lied about the crime he committed, it reminded me that ex-prisoners’ pasts continue to haunt them. At times, their crimes act as roadblocks (pg. 179).


XVIII. Sex, Love, and Race

Adam is getting his feet wet in his relationship with Leslie. He is slowly but surely opening up. It’s sad that he was diagnosed with cancer. But a good thing that he found a comforting partner in Leslie (pg. 196).


                                                                                                                                             XIX. From Attica to Broadway

When Angel said that it was necessary for him to commit his crime in order to be who he is, that was a strong statement (pg. 200). But then again, I think it’s easier for Angel to say this as a free person.


XX. The New Home

It was cute when Heinlein said she secretly wished Bruce had made cheesecake.


XXI. On Guard

It was interesting for Bruce to say that he enjoyed being by himself (pg. 216). Some ex-prisoners don’t agree. But, in the context of being a free citizen, Bruce probably enjoys peaceful solitude. Even more interesting was how honest he was about Heinlein’s homemade Rhubarb cake (pg. 217)!


Epilogue

Adam is still experiencing post-prison anxiety: loneliness and isolation (pg. 222).  I thought it would have been beneficial for the author to elaborate on why Angel has decided to become a Republican (pg. 226). I wonder if he feels isolated knowing that he will never get to chance to vote, although he personally changed his party.


Quotations

  • “The men often spoke about their lives and inner growth in prison as if they would have never had the opportunity to grow had they remained free.” -pg. 163
  • “When the social and the physical body are forced to retreat and ‘despair grips the heart,’ spirituality gains importance.” -167
  • “The Quakers repeatedly told me that a person was not defined by his or her past. Only the presented counted. Love counted.” -pg. 178
  • “In Angel’s, Adam’s, and Bruce’s cases there is a but for every positive assumption.” -pg. 183

Questions

  • How are Angel, Bruce, and Adam now?

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