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Life Arts

A Camera is a Terror Weapon!

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Headlined to None 9/6/09
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Didn't know that did you? I didn't either.

Fifteen years ago, I had taught at an area prison that had a dramatic image that I wanted to capture on camera. I wanted the image for a book I'm publishing on, Renata With Love, in which a prison figures prominently. It would have made a dramatic cover.

So, I thought, why not drive down the way I used to go to teach there, and take a couple of pictures with my new digital camera. Bad idea!

I had forgotten, if I ever knew, that taking pictures of the prison was a no-no. Since I didn't have a digital camera when I taught there, and had had no reason to want to take a picture of it, I probably never paid attention. It's actually a state crime!

I came up towards the visiting room entrance, having taken a panoramic view; I was going to take pictures along the wall, with the bucolic setting in the distance. I snapped one.

One of two guards asked me what I was doing.

"Just taking some pictures. I used to work here."

"You can't take pictures! Give me that camera!"

I handed it to him. He squinted at the controls, then asked, "How do you delete the pictures? I could confiscate the camera if you can't."

I showed him. The pictures I had taken flashed onto the screen: one, two, three, four--I had tried different angles--then a picture of another prison that I had snapped from the road earlier that day, and then two more of another prison on the same road; I had snapped them out the window as I drove by, just for the hell of it. I had taught at both of them.

"Why'd you take those? You're not supposed to take pictures of any prison in the state!"

Since those were the only pictures on the camera, he deleted them all. Then he called the Watch Commander.

Minutes later, the officer arrived, in a white shirt, instead of the grey shirt of the enlisted; he had gold bars. He questioned me: why did I take the pictures? And where were they?

I showed him that there were no more; that his officer had deleted them from the camera. And I stuck to my story, that I was just taking them because I'd once worked there. I didn't realize, how the pictures of the other two "facilities," made this sound suspicious.

He asked for my driver's license, and then told me he was taking it inside to be copied, and that he wanted my plate number, vehicle data, registration--and, when I showed one of the officers my car, he told me to wait there!

I waited. For my driver's license. All the officers but the one who had gone with me to the car went back inside the prison, or "inside," as I remember inmates saying. The one outside had a gun.

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I am a writer and retired college teacher. I taught college courses in Economics and Political Science (I've a Ph.D) and I've written as a free-lancer for various publications. I now write a website and a blog at (more...)
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