Jack wrote this in September, 2005:
During the hard, hungry times after my return to civilization following the Y2K non-event I discovered I had a lot left to learn about survival. I’ve told a bit about the Y2K experience elsewhere on this blog, but I’ve never discussed the aftermath here.
The nearest decent sized town to my cabin and everything I held dear was Grants, NM, about 60 miles north. After I settled my mind that I had to move back to town, I picked Grants, mostly because I expected to get a job there, but hoped I could still make frequent enough trips to the cabin to keep the chickens healthy, fed and watered.
But that’s another story.
I was as nearly dead-broke as I’d been since my youth. But I was operating on a number of faulty assumptions. Never had any trouble finding a job in my life, older now with a good job history and an education to be envied by a young person, one of my faulty assumptions was that I’d have no trouble finding work.
Grants is a town about 60 miles west of ABQ, once a uranium mining center, surrounded by Rez of various kinds on all sides. After uranium went away, Grants became a town that re-emerged as a prison center, thanks to the war on drugs. Touristas and prisons.
There’s a NM State prison for men, a State prison for women, and a private prison for spillover from the State, plus a couple of thousand federal prisoners.
I’d never thought much about working in a prison facility, but it seemed a reasonable choice. One of my degrees is in English, and though I’d never taught in a formal setting, I’d spent several years during the ‘80s teaching adult literacy as a volunteer, one on one. In my innocence I believed I could be an asset teaching prisoners.
I applied for a teaching position at the private facility because it happened that 60 of the workers there’d been fired the previous week because they’d failed drug tests, or for various other causes. I was new in town and didn’t realize this was a regular pattern, happening every month or so.
However, going there for interviews, going through gates, chain-link tunnels, layers of attitude and ribbon wire just to interview, I experienced a sinking of the spirit with each visit and ebullience each time I exited. As it turned out, the prison system didn’t want a 57 year old with my qualifications, but by the time they made that decision, it was clear to me the feeling was mutual.
I discovered there was nobody much in that town who did want a 57 year old with my qualifications. Eventually I lied about the education, claiming never to have been to an institution of higher learning, so’s to snag a minimum-wage graveyard shift job at a local motel, where I worked a couple of years.
A person can’t reside in Grants, NM, half-a-decade without learning a lot about prisons. Everyone seems to work in one, have a relative in one, sell drugs to people who work in them, or be a prisoner on work release. During those years I became the acquaintance of people involved in all those capacities.
In some later blog entries I’ll be relating some of the experiences involving that pleasant phase of my life, why I believe the prison and criminal justice system in this country is a disaster, why the War on Drugs, I believe, is destroying the institutions of the nation, and why I’ve come to believe Americans are helping to bankrupt themselves for the empty satisfaction of keeping a segment of the population in cages for victimless crimes, but accomplishing nothing. Zero. Zip, in doing so.