Courtesy of the LA Times.
As I write this, a hunger strike of some proportion is spreading through California’s prisons. It is the largest strike of its type in the history of the state, involving thirty thousand inmates, a quarter of all those incarcerated in California.
What are the foci of the prisoner’s complaints? The first is a common gripe—working in the prisons I heard it all the time— overcrowding, terrible food, general hassling and cruelty by staff—these are the tinder that has historically sparked so many uprisings.
Parracide Lyle Menendez who with his brother, Eric, had murdered his father and mother, was on my yard at Tehachapi Prison, Max Yard 4B where I taught a creative writing class. I had heard this through a couple of the inmates—their wives had met Lyle’s wife on visiting days and loathed her: she had married a celebrity killer while he was in prison and she lorded it over the other women in the visiting waiting area.
“Thinks she’s hot cause she’s married to a name,” was the way one of the inmates put it to me.
I thought little about it until one class day when two inmates made their way up from the yard to the library where I taught a few minutes before the class was to begin. They wanted to know if they could take the class.
“Have you been vetted by the administration?’ I asked. They said, yes, and produced a form entitling them to the class.
The larger of the two put out his hand. “I’m Lyle,” he said and that’s when I realized it was Lyle Menendez.