“Gordon had dreaded death row but found that it didn’t quite conform to his nightmares.”
If his students could learn to think well, to enjoy reading books, some part of them would be uncaged. That was what Gordon Hauser told himself, and what he told them, too. But there were days, like when a woman walked into the prison classroom and flung boiling sugar water into the face of another woman, when he did not believe it. There were days when it seemed as though the real purpose of the work he was doing was to destroy his own life by trying to teach people who wanted to burn each other’s faces off. The guards made everything more difficult, with their contempt for the women and their hostility toward free-world staff like Gordon. The guards had been forced to undergo sensitivity training and were furious about it. “It’s because you cunts cry and demand explanations,” they said. “Everything with you bitches is why, why, why.” They all reminisced about better times, when they had worked in men’s facilities, where they’d observed high-blood-volume stabbings on closed-circuit monitors from the safety of the watch office, and dealt with prisoners who lived by strictly self-enforced convict codes.