I was browsing my photo files for windows for Thursday Lingering Look at Windows and was distracted by photos I had taken last summer. Maybe I’m starting the slow transition to wanting to go back North – as soon as the snow melts.
The photos that stopped me today were of the old Jackson prison that friend Julie and I had walked around last summer. Once we moved into the walls, I remember being flooded with memories. No I didn’t spend time there – it was in use before I was born. What I remember is playing with my friend Linda.
This old prison was closed down after the large prison was built outside of town. I have spoken to many people around the US who know about Jackson, Michigan because of Southern Michigan State Prison – once the largest walled prison in the world. With changes in policy and funding, this large prison has been broken down into several small prisons, but the complex is still a major employer in the area.
Just outside the wall of the old prison were a line of row houses known as the prison terraces that remained in use for many years. Prison personnel lived there and my friend’s father was a prison psychologist. When I was in grade school I played with Linda at her house and we were told never to go inside the prison because it was dangerous and there were rats. It scared me and I was not one to get into trouble, but oh how it intrigued me.
I longed to see through those thick stone walls – to see the cells and dungeons. I knew I would find secrets there, about bad people and probably people who were hidden away for no good reason. There were probably even ghosts of men who died behind those walls. The walls were so tall and I knew if I snuck inside I would probably never be able to get out again and my family would be very, very sad.
Last summer, as we walked around the open space within the walls I couldn’t shake those spooky feelings. Within my adult mind I knew suffering had taken place here, the kind that comes from the lack of freedom, from isolation from family.