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More of Interview with Ed Griffin
In your opinion, do you feel the United Nations performs as they were meant to?
Or do you feel that it has all turned into a political play for power?
I think it was US delegate Madeline Albright who frankly admitted that the UN was just a tool of US diplomacy.
How long did it take you to complete this book?
Two to three years. Research, research, research. I write a first draft, take it to my writing group, go home and write a second draft, show it to a few key writers and then do a third draft. All that takes time.
Are you working on another book right now? If so, could you tell us a bit about it?
I’m writing a book now that is pushing my abilities to their limits. I’ve heard it said that you should always be writing something that is scaring the hell out of you. This new book, called Delaney’s Hope, is sure doing that for me. I wrote a blog that explains how the book came about.
The book came to me this way:
“You’re against prison, Griffin. So what’s your answer?” Over and over, I’ve heard that question from people I know. Sometimes it isn’t direct, but they hinted at it, like they’ll tell me about a horrific crime and wait for my reaction.
Yes, I’m against prison. I’ve taught in prisons for twenty-three years, first in a maximum-security prison in Wisconsin and now in a high medium- security prison in British Columbia, Canada.
“Hey, Jake, I heard you busted into an ATM machine. Tell me how. I want to learn.” That’s a conversation I overheard in prison. Like people say, it’s a crime school. Young cons learn from older cons. It reminds me of the prison saying, “I came to jail with a masters in marijuana and left with a doctorate in heroin.”
And it’s a warehouse. Old Alex is in his early seventies. His job is to sweep the walkway every day. He loves to stop you as you’re walking by and chat. He’s such a pleasant old man, I asked an inmate why he was here. “I don’t know what he did, but he had a small bit, maybe seven years. First he broke parole, then when he got to minimum, he heard his daughter was in the hospital, so he just took off. This happened a couple of times. The last time I think it was dementia. He was in minimum, walked out the gate, bought an ice cream at the local store and walked back to the prison. They put him back in high security and extended his sentence.
Prison is a taxpayer rip-off. If politicians could find their way to libraries, they would discover in section 364, criminology, that prison doesn’t work as a way to stop crime. Even wardens will admit that only fifteen to twenty percent of the inmates in their prisons need to be there. Yet the prison-industrial-complex cries for more prisons and longer sentences.
“So, Griffin, you’re against prison. What’s your answer?” Do I give a lecture every time I meet someone? No. I write. First I wrote Prisoners of the Williwaw, a novel about three hundred hardened inmates and their families on a terrible island in the Aleutians. The hero tries to build a decent society. Then I wrote a non-fiction book with an inmate, called Dystopia. We both tell our stories of prison, mine of teaching there, his of two years in a Mexican prison and eight years in a Canadian one. You’d be surprised which one he liked better.
Currently I’m trying to show in novel form what a future prison might look like and I don’t allow one preaching word to enter the story. I just show what happens if we were to set up a ‘humane’ prison. It’s called Delaney’s Hope and I’m on the final edit.
It scares me because I have to be in Delaney’s shoes – I have to know what to do with each of these inmates. It’s me, as much as Delaney, on the cutting edge of prison reform.
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