He turned off Highway 5 and onto the stark, industrial City Drive of Orange, California. Sun reflected off a homeless man’s shopping cart and the broken glass in the gutter. A jaywalker lunged across the street. Grady swung the steering wheel to miss him, tires squealing over the concrete. Ahead at the red stoplight, three kids, about the age of his son, crossed the street on their way to school. They jabbered in Spanish but giggled just like his son. A sharp-edged thought boiled up.
Grady’s rancorous custody battle continued post-divorce, and he’d relocated to be closer to seven-year-old Shane. How long would his job-hopping ex-wife stay in Long Beach? He stuffed a wishful dream to coach soccer into the caverns of his mind.
Ahead, a sign marked the penitentiary run by the most hard-hearted Godzillas of the human race. A shrill hiss grew to an ear-piercing whistle. At its command, prisoners rose at sunrise and appeared at their cell doors. Doors opened, and they stood on the threshold. “Right face.” All wheeled to the right. “March!” Without energy, the inmates zombied along for two hours of labor before breakfast. They made license plates, jeans, jackets, T-shirts, and hats. They worked in the laundry room, kitchen, or in the sewing room where they cut, basted, and stitched.
Color televisions, said to be available for viewing by those who earned the privilege, amounted to one set per eighty offenders. In the dayroom, they watched a nine-inch screen while seated on metal benches bolted to the floor. Correctional officers held remote controls and flipped through basic networks, sports, and educational channels. From there prisoners marched to dinner, out in the yard, and then back to cramped stone cells.