Tucson CitizenTucson Citizen

Prisons make a good neighbor

The only ex-convict I ever really got to know murdered my dog.

The guy had been in prison for about a decade, from age 18 to 26, and evidently did not come out a new man, unless killing a miniature pincher named Zola was new to him.

I suppose it was, unless there happens to be a lot of dead Zolas out there.

I don’t recall why the guy was locked up in the first place, but I did learn a lot from getting to know him.

Like don’t date a guy who spent his 20s in a state prison, don’t trust people who don’t like animals and don’t get little dogs that can be easily annihilated.

I also learned prison as a rehabilitation zone doesn’t work.

Perhaps that’s a harsh judgment made from only one observation, and a negative one at that, but no rehabilitation is going to work unless the person wants it.

Author Richard Shelton, who doubled as a professor at University of Arizona, found those who wanted it, at least creatively.

For 30 years, he brought a creative writing program to a number of Arizona prisons.

Some of his students, like Charles Schmid, were best known for their crimes. Others, like Jimmy Santiago Baca, became best known for their writing.

The workshops produced an outlet for creativity and some incredible writing. He includes a couple poems in the book, one so chilling it haunts me still.

Shelton, too, acknowledges the sad state of prisons, particularly pointing out the worst he’s seen in Arizona facilities.

In a nutshell, pun intended, prisons suck. They don’t serve as much more than a concrete container in which to stash people who often end up killing each other while confined.

But that’s the way it’s been for decades. Nothing is changing soon. And we still need more of them.

The only problem now is where to put them. South Wilmot Road is already clogged. It has two prisons plus that training academy where police and fire crews shoot guns and shimmy down poles, respectively.

So the idea is to stick the penitentiary in the Tohono O’odham nation’s San Xavier district.

Some folks don’t like that. A number cite environmental issues. One mother says she doesn’t want it near her home because it will remind her kids of the evils of the world.

If we were to block out everything that reminded us of evil, we’d best spend the day with our eyes closed.

Quite frankly, living next to a prison may be one of the safer places to be. You have all kinds of security, complete with towers and guns.

Escaped inmates are going to flee as far away from the prison as possible, so it’s not like they’ll be hanging out around the perimeter. (It’s still a good idea to refrain from picking up hitchhikers.)

A prison as a neighbor also insures you won’t get stuck living next to noisy party heads, folks who keep their yards populated with dead cars on cinder blocks or a meth house.

Even if prisons don’t do much for the inmates except except turn them pasty white and fat, they do create jobs. The prison also offered to pay the district a bed fee for its 750 beds.

Money coming in is usually not a bad thing.

I feel safe to say all this, of course, because there is no room near my home for a prison. If there were, I may have a different take on it.

Instead I’m stuck with parking lots, dentist offices and the occasional party head neighbor.

Where in Pima County would you put a new prison?

Comment below or e-mail rynski@tucsoncitizen.com (rynski@tucsoncitizen.com)

Read prison opposition story at: www.azstarnet.com/metro/293306.php

Citizen Online Archive, 2006-2009

This archive contains all the stories that appeared on the Tucson Citizen's website from mid-2006 to June 1, 2009.

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For all of the stories that were archived by the Tucson Citizen newspaper's library in a digital archive between 1993 and 2009, go to Morgue Part 2

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