Prison writing has a long and illustrious history in the United Stateshome of the modern correctional system. In the first decade of the 21st century, this country also garnered the distinction of having more prisoners per capita than any other nation in the world. We need to hear from the incarcerated writings of incarcerated men and women. The largest state prison system is in California with some 175,000 people behind bars in close to 35 facilities.
Yet the only approved Honor Yard in the Department of Corrections is at the California State Prison, Los Angeles County, in Lancaster, CA. These are the men that despite often-horrendous crimesmany are lifers, with a few going on three decadeshave proven their capacity to dream, to create, to write, to change. From poems, to stories, to novel excerpts, to reportage, to personal essaysand a few drawings“Honor Comes Hard” depicts what can happen to people who are given, as Clarence Darrow expressed many years ago, “a chance to live.” The work is drawn from writing classes that Lucinda Thomas helped organize in the Honor Yard over several years, and from workshops conducted by Luis J. Rodriguez on most Sundays, for eight hours a day, through eight months in 2007-2008.