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It's Never Too Late
by Patty Marsicano
March 16, 2000
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Minnesota prison inmates have written and illustrated a book which they hope will keep at-risk kids from becoming fellow inmates.

Meet the authors and hear their stories and poems.
GEORGE BENNETT is doing time in Stillwater prison for murder. He's 26, and is facing another two decades behind bars. He's also the author of a story called Free One Day, Serving Life the Next.
"So I say to all you youngsters out there, who want to be hard or cool by drinkin' and smokin' weed, think again because one minute you can be on the streets having fun and the next minute you can easily be serving time in prison."
It's just one of the stories and poems in the anthology It's Never Too Late, created by 31 inmates at Stillwater and Shakopee prisons. The aim is to inform - and perhaps scare - at-risk kids, about the lonely, dehumanizing world of prison, a world they may be headed for.

The book is going to be distributed through social service agencies working with at-risk kids. Some kids have already read the book. Boys' Totem Town, a juvenile correctional facility in St. Paul, got advance copies. Totem Town's Tracey Jackson gave the book to a couple boys she works with and they told her it opened their eyes. "It's the little things," she said. "One of the inmates talking about going into the refrigerator and getting a Coke; not gonna be able to do that."

The book was the brainchild of Pauline Geraci, a literacy teacher at the Stillwater prison. "I wanted to give the guys something meaningful and real-world hands-on to do besides just studying out of books and taking tests," she said. "I also wanted to look for a way to involve them in the community and I think this was a great way to do that."

Publishing the book cost about $6,500 and was funded by a grant from Education Minnesota and a private contributor. The book is illustrated with the inmates' drawings and paintings. One inmate drew the inside of his cell and called the piece My Home, Your Home; " (see illustration) a barren small space with a bed, toilet, sink, and a couple shelves for toothpaste and soap.

Another illustration shows a shadowy woman with a far-off look on her face accompanied by the words "We Left Our Women Behind and Alone." (see illustration)

Prison is the place Inmate Carl Wesley will be for at least the next 18 years. An artist before prison, he did a lot of work on the book, including the cover design. "The piece is entitled Soul Locked Down and it's basically my interpretation of life behind bars," he says. "It's chaotic, it's confused, it really takes some effort to decipher what goes on and how to deal with getting through each day and surviving the time."

Wesley says the inmates want to help kids in trouble by having them read what it's like to be in prison instead of going to prison.

"Never Too Late" is free. You can request a copy by writing to: Pauline Geraci, MCF-Stillwater, 970 Pickett Street North, Bayport, MN 55003-1490