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The Sun Magazine

Culture and Society

Incarceration

Essays, Memoirs, and True Stories

Willie

No one in prison is ever coming back. Once we’ve served our time, everything is finally going to work out. We’re all going to stay in touch, so we can share our good news — except I’ve been giving out a fake phone number this entire time. I’m embarrassed to know these men, eyewitnesses to a shameful period of my life I can’t wait to live down: two years in prison for a nonviolent offense.

Essays, Memoirs, and True Stories

Undue Familiarity

She neglects to mention the coins that dot the walkway in front of the prison’s main doors. As you leave, you bend over for a penny and discover the coin is sticky with ejaculate. Cheers and howls erupt from the many floors above your head, and more coins rain down, along with obscene invitations. You drop the penny and wipe your fingers on your pants, but the damage is done. They now have your measure.

Quotations

Sunbeams

The county jail looked like a tall, forbidding elementary school. Seven stories of dirty-brown brick, one hundred years old and now operating at 330 percent of capacity.

Richard Price

The Sun Interview

Criminal Injustice

Maya Schenwar On The Failure Of Mass Incarceration

Prison deepened my sister’s addiction, crushed her self-esteem, narrowed her options for jobs and education, and diminished her hope for a good life. She was in a much worse situation each time she came out.