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November 14, 2008

Neal’s significantly significant experience, Part IV

Filed under: Incarceration research, Neal's writing — Tags: , , — llcall @ 12:27 am

For Part I, click here.

For Part II, click here.

For Part III, click here.

And now for his summation…

The thing that surprised me more than anything else was how normal, and how friendly the men were. Outside of the cell-block fishbowl, they were regular people just like me and my fellow researchers. They shook our hands, laughed with us, told jokes, cried. They talked about wanting to invest, wanting to provide for their wives, their girlfriends, their kids. More than anything else, it was their kids that made them want to be better people. They loved their families. They prayed. In talking to these guys, I couldn’t help feeling they were just like me, except without the privileges. Most didn’t have father figures, or if they did, they weren’t good. They just never had someone to steer them like I had. Most had not made it to college. Some lived in tough neighborhoods. But they were real people; most of them were good people. Good people who made mistakes, not bad men who deserved to be cut off from humanity. Interviewing with us, they could let their guard down. And when the interviews were done, they put their protection back on, their swagger, and steeled themselves for the hell of the cell block.

When I watch TV now, it’s hard to watch the news and see a mug shot of a man flashed on the screen, and the terse blurb of his charge. Inevitably the picture is terrible; they’re not smiling, they look like a bad dude. Drug charges, assault, failure to pay child support. Whatever. I used to see those mug shots on the news and be glad one more bad dude was off the streets. But now I know the likelihood is that that mug shot is of a guy who is just like me but he just didn’t get the breaks, a guy that’s scared. A guy that needs someone to be a mentor, to help him do it right the next time.

cute-oneBy Neal Call

(I had to throw in this pic of my dreamy husband)



  1. Thanks for sharing! I like your summation.

    Comment by holly — November 14, 2008 @ 7:01 pm

  2. Has it been that long since I’ve seen you guys? Is Neal’s hair really this long now? Or is this an older picture?

    Comment by Jenn — November 14, 2008 @ 7:28 pm

  3. Older picture…May 2005–the first picture we ever took together actually. He’s a BYU boy now; no long hair. I miss it though!

    Comment by llcall — November 14, 2008 @ 7:38 pm

  4. After reading the four installments from Neal I am more aware. It sounds like it was a life changing experience. Thanks for sharing.

    Comment by Helen — November 15, 2008 @ 12:49 am

  5. Lindsay and Neal, I read a book, Newjack: Guarding Sing Sing a couple of years ago by Ted Conovor, a reporter who went in undercover as a prison guard. The book was very well written and showed the stress that comes from being a prison guard. It also showed just how messed up the prison system is in America and that there is definite need for prison reform, as well as reform in sentencing guidelines.

    I can’t help but think that your experiences would make for an excellent book to remind society that people in prison are just that, people. Some need to be there because they truly are bad people, but others are there because they made a wrong choice, they are still good people who deserve compassion and understanding.

    Comment by Kirsten — November 21, 2008 @ 5:26 pm

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