We never expected to be in prison!

Photo by Lynn Lane

You know that your life has gone down an interesting path when Gayle King references prison slang and you don't need the explanation. It happened the morning after Derek Chauvin's jury verdict was reached and she referenced how Chauvin had been placed in "ad seg" for his protection. And then in the next breath started to explain what it meant, but not before I thought to myself, "oh, administrative segregation, that makes sense."

So, why would a warm and fuzzy mom who lives in the middle of suburbia, and to any casual onlooker would look like the least likely person to know anything about prisons and prison terminology, have this kind of information? Well, it's all my sister's fault. She was the one who got us involved with criminal justice, first by having us present at a Prisoner's Family Conference and then with her "field trip" to a men's prison south of Houston.

And my attitude towards all of this? After all, aren't prisoner's criminals? You know, lock them up and throw away the key. Well, our involvement over many years led me to a greater understanding, which included that nothing's black and white, especially when it comes to the world of criminal justice – and incarceration. And I came to realize that just because someone made a bad decision doesn't make them a bad person.

Looking back, it's been a long but interesting journey that started when my husband got fired (I thought of it as a crisis, whereas Black saw it as a book that would be the basis of a sitcom) and has resulted in some very unexpected detours – how could a Neiman Marcus launch lead to our book being approved by the (Texas) State Board of Education as a textbook and then … drumroll, please … being used as the basis of a personal finance and Life 101 program embraced by the Chaplaincy Department of the Texas Department of Criminal Justice. (Trust me, you can't make this stuff up!)

So that explains some of my prison "education" (I've also learned that many people personally know men and women who either are or have been incarcerated, but they're often ashamed to admit it). Still, it doesn't explain why I specifically know about Ag Seg (or what many people call solitary confinement, although Black has told me it's now called restricted housing, but that doesn't change what it is). Well, our book was initially used for Faith-Based dorms and then General Population, but most recently has become an independent book study program used in, you guessed it, Ad Seg.

Underlying photo by Alleko on iStock


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