Happy Day to All

Posted: October 12, 2009 in prison, general
Tags: , ,

Happy Day to All is what it reads on the sign in the lobby at the prison. I’ve written it down twice now in my notebook, as it has struck me as out of place on both of my first two visits to WSR. I wonder who the sign is directed toward? The staff? Perhaps it is meant to serve as an out-of-place sentiment to jar custody officers and prison staff out of the heaviness of their day-to-day efforts to earn a paycheck. Or maybe it is a hopeful wish that staff will carry a sense of happiness and possibility into their day, perhaps infecting the prison population, so to speak, with optimism. Did the person who placed the tiny white letters on the sign intend for the message to reach the general prison population? When the writer got to the “to all” part of the slogan did he actually pause and think of the men behind the bars? And if so, did he continue on with the sign out of a true sense of compassion or out of eagerness to mock the reality of bars, razor wire and guard towers?

Happy Day to All might be a sign that someone on the prison staff shares a not-too-shabby dark sense of humor. One that I can relate to. As in “happy day to all of you not stuck in here” or “happy day to all of you foolish enough to believe in happy days” or even, “happy day to all of you innocent, ignorant volunteers who think you understand prison life because you come in here once a week and spend time with the men when they are on their best behavior” (which actually makes the sign a big fuck you, and I sort of appreciate that).

What I imagine it is that the sign is one more contradiction of the prison system itself. A system that can’t seem to decide if its primary reason for existence is to punish or rehabilitate. So, happy day to all who read this post. Take from it what you will.

  1. littlehouseintheswamp says:

    Thoughtful, eloquent, concise and gorgeous. Great post, Erika. I’m glad you’re back to blogging.

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