New Folsom Prison Diary: April

view from prison, men in prison, prison life, typical day in prison, California state penitentiary, New Folsom

Spoon Jackson’s view of the world from Folsom State Prison is framed by a 3″x3′ tall window.

April 29

At dusk, after a 90 degrees day, I looked out of the three inch by three feet tall window. My natural theatre and TV, my view of the outside world. I see a deer near the boulder tree in the tall browning grasses, already ripe for fire. I wonder, have all the geese behind the cell block flown away? I have not seen any for a while. I ponder my day, and we have no program in the art room. They cancelled everything but the last yard. They used to have the check arms after the TB testing they did this past Friday. They purposely delay and make things harder than they really are. The arm checks barely took an hour. Friday there was no program because the nurses had to count every needle used in TB testing. How hard can that be when they secure each needle in hazardous waste bins and no prisoner touches the needles, so if any needles are missing, who’s fault is that? I bet if they were counting money from their fat pay checks they would not miss a cent, and no needles are missing, just an excuse to have no prisoner programs.

I started reading a poetry anthology, called Good Poems. I had forgotten how inspiring introductions to books can be, especially poetry or short story/essay books. Sometimes the introduction can be better than the contents of the book. It is like a movie trailer where the best scene is the preview. Anyways, I am inspired again to tap into my own pools of realness.
The lone deer is still outside the window in the boulder field feasting on tall grasses. As dusk darkened into night, the little spider is at rest in the window sill. Two jackrabbits play tag up the dirt road. The light over the razor electric fences forbids me from seeing the field and boulder tree full of green again.

April 30

I arose before dawn and did my six pack work out, although I don’t have a six pack. I have some kind of pack. I also did my curls from the bunk and back arms. I do my stomach work as soon as I through my blanket off. As the sun came up and my tiny theatre window awakened, a lone male turkey walks up the paved prison road beside the fencing, and across from the reborn boulder tree. I brushed my teeth and washed up and made a cup of instant coffee. I sat at the window and waited to be released for work. It is Tuesday and the tower cop on this day is one who hates prisoner programs and don’t like letting me out of the cell on time for work. I must wait until our art room supervisor Kari calls. So I continued to focus on the theatre and the turkeys are no longer rushing about these days. The turkey hens are sitting on nests somewhere. So the gobblers have slowed their show-boating and swagger down. It’s close to mid spring now. I understand how the gobblers are missing the females. I see them here, but no courting allowed, it’s torture. Moving on. I went to work and on the yard there was a fight between two gang members. No one hurt. I didn’t play my flute at all today. I heard native flute playing is for courting women. I barely hung out with the Gosling Five. They are acting too grown now.

May 1

Theatre window is opened. I got up a little late this morning, so I did no work out. Actually, I need to get back to jogging and walking. My heart yearns for cardio exercise. I have told myself to wait until I’m at my next prison. I’ll probably do my stomach, my core work later today. The wind is blowing and gusting in places, the grasses, weeds, yellow and purple tiny weed flowers and orange poppies are swaying to the winds like listening to old blues songs. I have my prose class today and a couple of new students. Hopefully, my writing-side manners won’t run them off. I can be abrupt at times. There is one deer eating something in the tall grasses. I’ll do this daily log for a while, as a way to free up some realness and give folks a taste of what New Folsom prison life is like.


You can write letters to Spoon Jackson at: Spoon Jackson B92377, C3-119, CSP-SAC,P.O.Box 290066, Represa, CA 95671-0066, USA.

This was previously published on the Spoon Jackson Realness Network.

Read more from Spoon Jackson in Poet Behind Bars on The Good Life.

Image courtesy of the author

About Spoon Jackson

Poet/writer/artist/teacher. In prison since 1977. I had two books published in 2010 “Longer Ago Poems by Spoon Jackson” and “By Heart Poetry, Prison, And Two Lives”, a double memoir by Judith Tannenbaum and me. I've been featured in films, plays, articles, books and music suites. I've found my niche in life despite being in prison for over 35 years. I have found that prisons are created internally and are truly found everywhere. I have also discovered that the secrets to break down prison walls are inside each person and I treasure sharing this realness with people. I keep my light glowing through expressing my inner thoughts, vibes and feelings in my poetry and prose writing. Write to me! Address on the blog: Spoon Jackson Realness Network.


  1. Eirik Rogers says:

    ” I’ll do this daily log for a while, as a way to free up some realness and give folks a taste of what New Folsom prison life is like.”

    Thank you, Spoon. I was struck by that last sentence, because when I started reading this, I fully expected a “taste” of life within the walls of Folsom. What I got instead was unexpected. You directed my eyes not towards stark concrete rooms and plastic chairs, but through a three inch slit of a window on a world you cannot touch. Yet you see more than most do through picture windows or windshields or no window at all. The descriptions of deer, geese, jackrabbits, turkeys and tall grasses, and even the little spider that lives in the very frame of your theater, speak volumes about your ability to truly see the beauty of life through thirsty eyes. They speak volumes of a spirit that soars far beyond the walls of the prison.

    Looking outside through your small window – through your eyes – tells me more about the inside than I had expected.

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