The first thing that got me was that the foreword was by Samuel. L. Jackson. Apparently, this looks legit. It's not much, basically a long paragraph on the page, which is an indication of what is to come throughout the book. Short snips of compressed stories that reveal the humanity behind incarceration.
It then moves into the introductions. Here's Gustavo "Goose" Alvarei's intro which also explains how come some famous people have been involved in this one...
One hot day in August, there was a prison riot at the California Institution for Men in Chino. I was halfway through a six-year sentence, the father of young children and I wanted nothing to do with extending my time in that hellhole. But the race riot that unfolded that night was inescapable.
I was with a group of Southern California Hispanics, outnumbered and trapped in the last surviving dorm. Fires raged all around us. More than one hundred angry men were doing everything possible to break down a secured door. Their only desire was to maim or preferably kill us. We were pretty much doomed - we knew it, they knew it. The only thing I had left in that shithole worth fighting for were the pictures of my kids taped to my locker shelf. So we prepared ourselves for the massacre, lacing up and wrapping towels around our necks to protect our jugulars. There were two Christian brothers in our dorm just praying. It was pretty grim.
And then, as the door began to give way and the rioting inmates were just about to storm in, two older guys ran to our aid. They were OGs - Original Gang members of the Crisps - and they stood between us and the bloodthirsty attackers.
They must have argued for two hours, until finally the rioting inmates backed down. The lines of race and gang affiliation are deeper in prison than anywhere else, so the fact that these African American guys defended us - Hispanics - against their own brothers is practically unheard of.
Since fires were still raging, and the door to our dorm was now jammed, we and our, "enemies," were both trapped. They were outside in the prison yard, freezing and huddled up. I noticed one of the OG men passing them the little bit of food he had, from his locker. At that moment, I felt it only right to try to return a small portion of a big favour. I gathered all the homies and we began to cook all our Ramen and commissary. We made huge spreads, jugs of coffee, and snacks. We shoved all the blankets and mattresses we could fit through the door they had once attempted to break down to kill us. Most of them were just kids, barely in their twenties, living and following the same lies we were.
Shortly after this, I received a visit from my childhood friend Clinton. Growing up in the mean streets of West L.A. who would have thought that many years later we'd still be friends? We came from the same housing projects, but grew up in different worlds. Cliff was never deep in the game like many others, but he was always in the mix. Squabbling, getting shot at, holding his own in street fights like the rest of us. Then he'd bounce the spot and go to an audition. I'd get snatched from the spot and go to juvenile hall. This went on for many years - casting calls for him, county jails for me, movie deals for him, state and federal prisons for me.
Through it all, we maintained our friendship through letters, phone calls, and visits, always holding the dream that one day we'd collaborate on something. I pitched this idea to Cliff when he visited me after the riot and now it's a book in your hands. Take it from someone who knows what he's talking about - you can change your life from wherever your are right now.
There's even a section from Slash from Guns'n'Roses fame, who spent a few days behind bars early on in the bands career. There's a short recipe, "Slash's Jaywalking Ramen" which is basically scallions (spring onions) and a small amount of cooked pork mince added to chicken flavour ramen, which is apparently still a favourite on the tour bus. His advice... "To those of you who don't bother with those minor infractions and choose to ignore tickets, beware. There might be a stinky holding cell waiting for you. Word to the wise: Pay your jaywalking tickets.""
Roger Avary, screenwriter of Pulp Fiction, Silent Hill and Beowulf. He was up on a manslaughter charge. This from Wikipedia...
On January 13, 2008, Avary was arrested under suspicion of manslaughter and DUI, following a car crash in Ojai, California, where a passenger, Andrea Zini, was killed. The Ventura County Sheriff's department responded to the accident after midnight Sunday morning on the 19-hundred block of East Ojai Avenue. Avary was released from jail on $50,000 bail. In December 2008, he was charged with, and pleaded not guilty to, gross vehicular manslaughter and two felony counts of causing bodily injury while intoxicated. He later changed his plea to guilty on August 18, 2009. On September 29, 2009, he was sentenced to 1 year in work furlough (allowing him to go to his job during the day and then report back to the furlough facility at night) and 5 years of probation. However, after making several tweets about the conditions of his stay on Twitter, Avary was sent to Ventura County Jail to serve out the remainder of his term. On July 10, 2010, after spending eight months in jail, Avary was released.
His recipe is, "Avery's Jailhouse Hole Burrito," which he ponders could potentially have killed him.
There are human stories in here, including about how some inmates started gardens, growing their own veg until, "It all ended on the day someone took tomato plant leaves to make a toxic tea, poisoning another inmate. It was tough to watch officers pulling out our crops."
This is the kind of a book that, pardon the pun, I can really get stuck in to.