Wilderness and Razor Wire

English: Ken Lamberton reading in Amherst, MA ...

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Wilderness and Razor Wire, a Naturalist’s Observations from Prison by Ken Lamberton. Ken Lamberton was an award-winning teacher at age 27 when he made the grievous error of falling in love and running away with a student aged 14. He was arrested after two weeks and sent to prison for a total of 12 years served in a split sentence when he was released by one judge and returned to prison by an appellant panel. He was released in 2000 and has not returned to prison. His life story is different in that his wife and three children did not abandon him during the prison years. In fact, his wife returned to school to learn enough law to fight his case from outside prison.

In prison, Ken met Richard Shelton who was teaching creative writing at various prisons in the Arizona penal system. He began writing at the same time he observed the natural world that invaded the prison. He kept records of what he observed, made drawings and read voraciously. Wilderness and Razor Wire is about his prison experience and also about the people and the nature he observed while there. He was fortunate in that most of his sentence was served among other sex offenders where gang violence was minimal. He was brutally attacked and injured when he was mistakenly transferred into the general prison population.

Pets for prisoners were prohibited where he was incarcerated, but prisoners kept pets in defiance of the rules. Some prisoners kept insects and others had small rodents as pets. Lamberton observed that prisoners with pets were happier and less prone to violence. I think some prisons should experiment with allowing inmates to have pets. Lamberton observed that human contact, one person to another, or one man to pet, was essential to prisoner mental health. The most feared punishment was isolation from others, and that is the trend being followed in more and more prisons.

Please see Prison reform | America’s prisons

3 thoughts on “Wilderness and Razor Wire

  1. How lucky you were to find writing, Ken, while you were in prison. And I like your two themes of nature and pet therapy. I once brought a poet into prison to teach my class. The poet noticed that there were no trees in the prison yard. He wrote a poem about it, how the guys might see the tops of trees outside the walls, but never see the trunk.
    Thanks for your blog.
    Ed Griffin, teacher

  2. This is a great idea. If we clear out all the non-criminals it should leave plenty pf space to really work with the criminals and Pet Therapy; so to speak; is very effective for instilling a sense of responsibility; compassion; and love in a person who has had precious little of any of these things.
    Todays prison would prbably not be interested because their goal is to keep the workforce filled and encourage Resitevism to assure that but if we got the bad laws off the books and organized our prisons to help actually retrain criminals for re-entry to society this would be a cornerstone idea for that program.

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