Saying Goodbye to Grandma in Chains


Eddie comes up to me after the midterm and says he too is afraid that he hadn’t done as well as he should have. Eddie is a tutor, a sweet and serious man in his late twenties, who works with other inmates to help them earn a GED.

“You see, my grandma died this week,” Eddie says. “And I was too sad to study.”

“I’m so sorry, Eddie. Of course I understand.”

“I did get to see her, though. They let me go see her.”

“Wow, Eddie, I said, incredulous at the seemingly humanitarian gesture. “So you got to say goodbye to her?”

“Well, no. I waited till she died. I had a choice but I had to be in the orange jumpsuit all shackled and in chains. I didn’t want her to see me like that; I didn’t want that to be the last picture she had of me as she left this earth. So I waited till she died. They took me to the funeral home. And I kissed her good-bye.”

Saying goodbye to those we love and grieving them with dignity is a basic human right.  Yet, for the incarcerated many of the things that keep us humans are denied.

The goals and aims of education and the goals and aims of incarceration are fundamentally opposite. Education seeks to liberate; incarceration necessarily seeks to constrain. Education seeks to humanize; incarceration inevitably seeks to dehumanize. Education seeks to give the individual power; incarceration only works if the incarcerated are rendered powerless.  Yet departments of corrections are aware that education is the only reliable key to reduce recidivism. So, how does one accomplish the education needed to retrain, rehabilitate and heal while at the same time, effectively controlling individuals until they are released?



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