Archives for prison


California Prison Hunger Strikes

DSM's take on the California prison hunger strike 2013

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.

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Murderer Lyle Menendez and Me

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.

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