A 21st-Century Rip Van Winkle: What Changed In My Decade Behind Bars

When the New World was two centuries newer, Washington Irving set a fable, "Rip Van Winkle," in the oldest parts of New York State, where the original Dutch settlers' culture still lingered. Life was European then—just set in America. But progress stops for no man. The story's hero evades his nagging wife in the wilds… » 3/18/15 2:52pm 3/18/15 2:52pm

Spend Your Holiday Season In Prison

If Deadspin gave out Rookie of the Year awards, 2014 might belong to Daniel Genis, who finished a 10-year prison bid in February and has already written several books' worth of raw, incredible, visceral, and profoundly human dispatches about his time inside. There's no better day to revisit the stuff he did for us… » 12/25/14 11:00am 12/25/14 11:00am

The Prison Forger's Christmas Miracle

I learned to love Christmas and see the good in all mankind on Christmas Eve 2006, which I spent in Greenhaven, a maximum-security prison in New York State. Two years of heroin addiction culminating in five convictions for armed robbery had brought me there, and it was already my fourth holiday season inside. The… » 12/23/14 1:25pm 12/23/14 1:25pm

Drugs, Chess, Books, Or Gambling: How To Fight Boredom In Prison

Leisure time, unstructured and purposeless, generally makes up most of an American prison inmate's day. Most convicts are just sent to the yard, where they socialize, exercise, play games and sports, and make their deals. Entire lives are spent in the incarcerated world, typified by the sexual compromises and » 12/18/14 3:28pm 12/18/14 3:28pm

Violence Is Currency: A Pacifist Ex-Con's Guide To Prison Weaponry

The most common weapon inside is simply a can top. Pulled off a tin of beans and folded over, it doesn't even need to be sharpened to leave a jagged scar. A shank, also known as a shiv, is not for cutting but for stabbing. It's called a "gun" in jailhouse vernacular, and the most valuable kind is fashioned out of… » 11/06/14 1:08pm 11/06/14 1:08pm

A Gentleman's Guide To Sex In Prison

When I tell people that I recently finished serving a 10-year prison sentence for armed robbery, mostly in maximum-security facilities, I often feel a question lingering in the air. The moment I sense it, I try to respond to the awkward silence in some offhanded way, though it is hard to be blithe and whimsical when… » 9/18/14 1:16pm 9/18/14 1:16pm

Forgiving The Club Kid Killer: My Prison Friendship With Michael Alig

After just a few recent minutes in conversation with Michael Alig, we'd fallen right back into the intellectual relationship we'd developed over two prisons and several shared years in the incarcerated world. I always liked him; I'd even forgiven him for when he tried to rat me out. (He did graciously apologize.) » 6/05/14 12:35pm 6/05/14 12:35pm

Chained Wimbledon: The Joys And Perils Of Prison Tennis

The next time I commit a felony, I think I'll do it in California. It turns out that San Quentin has a fabulous tennis program. The court I played on during my time in the New York State prison system was a total wreck. Two summers at Groveland Correctional Facility (starting in 2009) did improve my serve, but of all… » 5/20/14 10:05am 5/20/14 10:05am

An Ex-Con's Guide To Prison Weightlifting

Lifting weights in an American prison means joining a culture unlike any seen in a free-world gym, full of crudely welded pig iron and rust. Men forsake masturbation to improve their bench-press stats and consume cans of Jack Mack, the cheapest tinned fish in the world, along with the filthy broth it's packed in for… » 5/06/14 3:43pm 5/06/14 3:43pm