|I call this one "Still Life with Diet Coke."|
I'm not allowed to take pop into the prison, so for the first two weeks I asked the guards at the entry way to let me into the locked room where the vending machines are. This felt a little awkward to be asking them to step away from their station to do this, and I also felt awkward having the pop in class. None of my students have a soda in hand as they enter the prison classroom, so I felt it was an awkward sign of privilege. I read back over my list of allowable items, and discovered that I could bring one unopened bottle of water, and 2 protein bars, so I started bringing those items in with me last week, and again this week.
"Where's your pop?" one of the prisoners asked me this week. I explained that it seemed pricey in the vending, and I was able to bring water in with me but not pop.
"But that's the same price we pay," he said.
I agreed, it was, but asked "Why should I give that money to the prison industrial system or to the vending company?"
"Some of that money goes to us. It's how we get new movies and equipment. You're supporting us when you buy that pop."
"I didn't know that!" I said. "I had no idea that you got some benefit from it. I'll go back to buying it, if it supports you guys."
"We'd appreciate that," he said.
And so, I will once again be carrying my bag of quarters into the prison and purchasing my slightly pricey pop inside the walls. For these guys, it wasn't a sign of my privilege. It was a sign of support.
This is a good illustration for Communications Class -- what we think we are communicating isn't always what the received communication is.