In 2012, Boyd placed second in the national PEN prison writing contest for fiction, and he now commutes from Pittsburgh to the Writer’s Foundry Master of Fine Arts program at St. Joseph’s College in Brooklyn.
Another news source has picked up the article regarding Chatham University’s “Words Without Walls” jail writing program at the Allegheny County Jail—a program which I am a graduate of. I’m happy to see this story getting passed around to various news sites because it is such an important issue to me.
This past week I did some side-work for a print shop my mother works at (fun fact: she enjoys her work so much that she’ll show me novels she’s bought [she mostly reads Lee Child, but we can forgive her] and shows me if the type-setting on the inside pages is even half a milliliter). So I was working there and she warned me that many of the people there didn’t share my political views. Well, I found that out quickly when someone was lamenting the terrible Welfare Population of this country—which, whatever, I’ll agree the system has issues, though I think they’re very overblown—and then someone said, "I think it’s even worse with the prisons! Look at all the extravagancies they have! People go in there so WE can pay for them, and it’s probably not so bad; I mean, sure, you could get killed, but otherwise…”
When I was working in jail, the group I was with had to throw food away one day. It was the end of the fiscal year and the jail was soon to be audited—we were told to throw away LOTS of food in the kitchen freezers. I discovered this was because, when the jail would be audited, they would see the lack of food and give the jail more money for their annual budget. Let me tell you, whatever ‘extravagancies’ the heads of the jail got from that extra money, none of the inmates ever saw; nobody in jail eats caviar.
In fact, did you know that inmates are not allowed to receive federal aid for college—even if they have a co-signer? In America, we stick people in jail and refuse to give them the tools to help them escape the system. I find this disgusting and I promise, no matter what a dummy I may be, to do whatever I can for that marginalized population.