Like many people, I don't often think about the lives of prison inmates. In my day-to-day life, it's not something that is brought to the forefront of my mind. We watch television shows about prison (or a type of prison I estimate is at least a little romanticized), but most of us don't consider the concept often. Sometimes, though, we're confronted with the system and the people inside it.
Bobby Bostic is currently an inmate at the Jefferson City Correctional Center. In 1995, when he was 16 years old, Bostic and another teenager, an 18-year-old, robbed a group of people in St. Louis who were delivering Christmas presents to a needy family. Two individuals were shot but not seriously injured. Bostic's co-defendant took a plea deal and was sentenced to 30 years in prison. Bostic, who was tried as an adult, went to trial, lost and was subsequently sentenced to an astounding 241 years in prison. Since his imprisonment, Bostic has earned a college degree and written several books. This month, I decided to read his book "Life Goes on Inside Prison," and I have come away understanding a different viewpoint.
Bostic's prose is incredibly honest, nearly raw. He touches on many different ideas about both prison as a social body and the flaws in the system itself. He describes, for example, the modern idea of prison as a "rehabilitation center," the concept we as a society send criminals to prison to reform them, and expect them to emerge as caring citizens. These days, as Bostic points out, prisons are often owned by corporations, and as profit-driven organizations, they are disinclined to relinquish the prison workers who provide incredibly cheap labor. In this way, the idea of prisons being rehabilitation centers is directly at odds with the motivation of the corporations that own them. These observations are stated frankly and provide insight into the world of the prison system, from overarching trends in the prison system to the everyday tedium of the daily schedule.
Bostic is a passionate writer, and he describes, with great insight, the way art gives prisoners, a group that is silent in our wider society, a much-needed voice. With compassion, he manages to highlight the struggles of existence in prison while finding the beauty life has to offer. If you are interested in what prison life is like and the systems that help shape it, this insider's book will give you a different and valuable perspective.
Megan Mehmert is the technology training librarian at Missouri River Regional Library.