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The Sun Magazine

Culture and Society

Incarceration

Quotations

Sunbeams

The [prison] system does everything within its power to sever any physical or emotional links you have to anyone in the outside world. They want your children to grow up without ever knowing you. They want your spouse to forget your face and start a new life. They want you to sit alone, grieving, in a concrete box, unable even to say your last farewell at a parent’s funeral.

Damien Echols

The Dog-Eared Page

The Cell Door Closes

It is a unique sound. A cell door has no handle, either outside or inside. It cannot be shut except by being slammed. It is made of massive steel and concrete, about four inches thick, and every time it falls to there is a resounding crash just as though a shot has been fired. But this report dies away without an echo. Prison sounds are echoless and bleak.

Essays, Memoirs, & 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, & 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.