On September 5, 2013, I pulled my old Volvo wagon—a bumper sticker reading “This is the Rebel Base” stuck on the back by my wife, a Star Wars fan—into the parking lot at East Jersey State Prison in Rahway, New Jersey. I had taught college-level courses in New Jersey prisons for the past three years. But neither my new students nor I had any idea that night that we were embarking on a journey that would shatter their protective emotional walls, or that years later our lives would be deeply intertwined.
I put my wallet and phone in the glove compartment, emptied my pockets of coins, and dumped them in the console between the front seats. I made sure I had my driver’s license. I gathered up my books, plays by August Wilson, James Baldwin, John Herbert, Tarell Alvin McCraney, Miguel Piñero, Amiri Baraka, and a copy of Michelle Alexander’s The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness.Continue reading