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Yes, they are part of the violence; they contribute to this way of life, and many of the younger men, the ones in their twenties, are still seduced by it. But once they hit 30, most of my students want to find their way out. And one way, temporarily, is prison.
Prison, my student Robert wrote, was the first place he ever felt safe. If there were any weapons on the inside, he said, he could be pretty sure they wouldn’t be guns. Suddenly, the fear that had dominated and determined the direction of his life, was gone. Free from fear, Robert was free to begin to discover who he was.
The majority of my students grow up on society’s margins, so a centralized issue like the one on gun control has little bearing on their lives. After all, they purchase their guns illegally. Yes, we should keep guns out their hands, but if the criminals I know had been given no reason to want one they’d have never become criminals in the first place. Implement and fund the social policies and programs that will eradicate the causes for their fear, and my students won’t be condemned to find sanctuary behind prison walls simply because they were too young to know that they would never find it in a gun.
Peggy Rambach is the author of a novel "Fighting Gravity" (Steerforth Press) and the editor of two anthologies published by Paper Journey Press that emerged from her work teaching writing in the social service and health-care sectors. A second novel is forthcoming from Paper Journey Press. You can read her students’ work at www.peggyrambach.com.