Chris Uggen's Blog: i'll just stick with the clearasil, thanks

Saturday, April 07, 2007

i'll just stick with the clearasil, thanks

i took my juvenile delinquency class for a tour of the red wing correctional facility yesterday, the end-of-the-line institution in minnesota. i'm always impressed with the facility's staff, who seem genuinely committed to helping young men under difficult conditions. legions of volunteers share a similar orientation; my personal favorites are the grandmas who come into the cottages to bake cookies for the kids and generally civilize the place.

the tour is great for students because it is led by residents rather than staff. students therefore get the opportunity to interact freely and informally with those serving time in the institution. typically 3 residents will lead groups of 6 or 7 students through the facility, explaining what their daily lives are like, and sometimes asking my students questions about college life. nevertheless, the facility has begun to look more like a prison in recent years, and every prison seems to have a hole. the dayton high-security unit serves that function at red wing.

i always join one of the groups myself, since every year i learn something new from the residents. this year i learned about pepper spray, which is sometimes (infrequently, i'd hope) used to incapacitate or control residents. as we left the high security unit, two of our guides discussed how they could now deliver pepper spray with a "firehose," delivering immediate pain to all exposed skin. "damn," he continued, "but at least that sh** will clear up your acne. i didn't have no acne for a whole week, man. i'm not kidding!"

pain isn't funny, but i felt a connection and had to join them in a laugh -- it sounds exactly like something my teenage boy would say.


At 7:52 PM, Blogger sarah said...

I had to be exposed to a moderate amount of pepper spray during orientation at the Home School last summer (some kind of regulation...). Nasty sh*t! Not sure it did much for my acne, though!

At 10:04 AM, Blogger kristin said...

having never visited a correctional facility before, i actually expected red wing to be more like a prison, especially considering it's home to the worst juvenile offenders. it was definitely a neat experience to be able to walk around freely with the resident tour guides and not be followed everywhere by staff.


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