Sunday, September 28, 2008

My Town Monday - A Place of Contrasts, Part 1

When our state implemented a phone system to notify residents when a sex offender moved into your zip code, I signed up. I'd like to know if someone that could be a threat to my children moved onto my street. Shortly thereafter, the phone began ringing off the hook. Our city was filthy with sex offenders. You see, my town is the site of a state medium security reformatory. Housing close to 2000 inmates, one or two are booked daily in my zip code which I share with the prison. Each booking precipitated a warning call that someone had moved into my neighborhood. I wanted to know if someone moved in next door, not into the prison where I hoped they would be staying under lock and key. Unfortunately, they hadn't designed that into the phone system and I got daily updates on the number of people entering prison each day for sex crimes. I asked to be removed from the list.

I would post my own photo of the prison, but at the present time, the corn is drying in the field in front of it, blocking my view. Sitting on 43 acres, the prison manages the land with crops and cattle.

It is one of the biggest employers, with over 600 staff. Each week, one of the guards comes into the thrift shop and makes small talk with Chuck, my co-volunteer. A big woman, her blue uniform is out of place as she purchases pink outfits for little girls. She works in the guard tower. I have heard that at one time, the prison made cabinets and worked on cars. Local residents regularly used their services. Though I don't think this occurs any longer, it is a common site to see men in orange jumpsuits doing all sorts of odd jobs about the city.

You may wonder if we residents fear living so close. Prison breaks occur rarely, but they are a bit scary. One day, we went to the recycle center (it is now run by prisoners, but not at that time), and were told we should be careful. Two men had escaped. We suddenly became aware of the number of police about town and were startled to see sentries posted at the end of our street, one mile from home! By the next day, the police had solved the mystery. The two men had hidden in a dumpster where they were dumped into a garbage truck. They were crushed to death when the garbage truck ran the compactor before leaving prison grounds.

At night, the sky glows red to the southwest of my house. When I first moved here, I thought it was the lights of the big city twenty miles away. No, it was the glow of the prison. The other interesting thing about the prison is that a county park and fairgrounds are adjacent to the prison grounds. I have always thought it strange to have children playing and swimming, the county fair being held, fireworks and picnics, right next to the prison. I wonder if the men inside can see the fireworks.

The reformatory is actually one of four prisons in my town, two smaller state prisons and a county prison. In this bedroom community, it is a stark contrast between those inside and those not.

Want to write about your town? Go register at Travis Erwin's blog.

12 comments:

Travis Erwin said...

Prisons are big business here in Texas and here you get a postcard telling you that a sex offender has moved into the neighborhood.

Arby said...

I am surrounded by prisons. Lansing has a state penitentiary close by. Leavenworth has the famous big house that has now been downgraded to a medium security prison. There is a juvenile unit in town, a women's prison, and the post has a rather large disciplinary unit, which is a sanitized name for prison. When the helicopters swirl overhead we know there is a breakout, but all the crooks head southeast towards Kansas City. If you Google the name “Toby Young” or “convicted killer john Maynard” you can read interesting stories of our last escape.

Barbara Martin said...

Correctional institutions have to be put someplace. Interesting post though.

Barrie said...

Very interesting post. Something about your thought re the prisoners seeing the town fireworks reminded me that Ray Bradbury short story where the kids wait all year to see the sun.

Camflock said...

I remember the first time I looked up on the computer where the sex offenders lived in our area. About 40 came up in one neighborhood! I was stunned! Then I realized where it was -- the prison! (Should I admit this?)

Clare2e said...

Okay, I know it's an unusual issue for a community and I'm fascinated by your telling us what's different having a local prison be such a large employer and part of everyday life. But I had to laugh about your automated warning calls! I can just imagine being a visitor in your home and the phone ringing, and you looking at the Caller ID, ignoring it, saying with boredom, "Oh that, another sex offender. Second today." I might choke on my finger sandwich!

Melanie Avila said...

I did the online search for sex offenders in my neighborhood while living in Chicago and was shocked at how many were there. And many of them lived together, which was more frightening, like they were plotting new attacks over dinner.

lyzzydee said...

I have lead a sheltered life, we don't have any nearby prisons and we certainly don't get any warning if we have anyone dodgy moving into the area. Mind you it did make me laugh when you said about your phone ringing off the hook!!!!

debra said...

There is a pretty good sized prison in a town west of us. We drove by it one night and it was lit up like a Christmas tree. My kids particulery liked the "Do Not Pick Up Hitchhikers" sign.

whitetr6 said...

i like your my town monday postings. This particular one brings up something I've often thought about: the effectiveness of these sex offender living restrictions. I have a couple problems with it - first of all, I'm not sure there is statistical evidence indicating there is any greater danger whatsoever with an offender living next door vs in the next town. The other, perhaps bigger problem, is that limiting where they live with respect to schools, playgrounds or any other place kids hang out obviously drives them out of larger cities into small more spread out communities which per capita would otherwise have a very low number of convicted criminals living there.

Here in nearby Hamilton Cty, the Cincinnati police is constantly frustrated that the community refuses to build a jail, then wonders why the criminals are turned loose way before their time is completed because of overcrowding.

I long for my private island, "Someday Isle" where the only miscreants are the monkeys

Seldom_Scene said...

I live in Crestwood. It was kind of scary one time when a male escaped from the prison. We had sentries lined up everywhere. Before living in Crestwood I lived in Pewee Valley, just a couple miles down from the women's prison.
Where's the recycle center these days? I had read it came to an end thanks to budget cuts.

pita-woman said...

It's amazing how many people are in prison for sex-offenses. Not that I'm defending any of them, but you have to wonder what percent of them that are imprisoned are "true" offenders that would seriously be a threat if/when released.
I work right up the street from those prisons you mentioned, & I've never really given them a 2nd thought.

LinkWithin

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...

Popular Posts