Razor Wire

Tim Boland is also known as Convict #232240. He is Senior Editor at the The Lino Ledger, the newspaper at the Minnesota Correctional Facility-Lino Lakes, where he writes a series of essays on prison life. Find his essays on Revolver.

I’ve always been fascinated by prisons. Maybe because of a secret allure to a forbidden society. Maybe it was the images created in the media fantasy machine—the burly tattooed savages, muscle-bound toughs and slick, death-dealing predators—all running amok on the galleys of giant cell blocks. Never in my wildest dreams though, did I think I would ever see the Pen from the inside.

Well, here I am.

Mine is not your typical prison story. I didn’t grow up on the mean streets. I wasn’t a pistol-popper or a gang-banger. I was a kid from the suburbs who liked sports and dirt bikes and girls. I had a normal life. But apparently, it wasn’t enough. Neither was being a star jock in high school, or going to college on a full ride to play baseball or a chance to make it to the big time. Marrying my college sweetheart? That wasn’t enough either. Nor was having a good job or owning a house on a creek or living the American Dream.

People wake up every day and make choices. I made mine. For reasons beyond the grasp of my comprehension, I chose a world of drugs and violence and mayhem. I thought outlawry was a glamorous trade; I thought cocaine was a sexy game. A lost soul to say the least.

It turned out I wasn’t a very good criminal. I ran up high numbers in a treacherous business, but everything else, everything that really counted, fell apart. My twisted lifestyle came to a crashing halt when I was arrested at gunpoint—make that machine gunpoint—and dragged off to languish in the dismal, rat-infested county lockup. After being charged with multiple felonies, I pled guilty to manslaughter and narcotics trafficking, and received an 11-year sentence, of which I was mandated to serve roughly seven years.

Having never been to prison, I expected the worst. I had heard the stories of riots and rapes and all sorts of depraved and dangerous things happening inside the razor wire. Now, after four years of incarceration, I can say that, yes—bad things absolutely happen in prison. I know this because I’ve seen it firsthand. Prison life can be vicious; it can be lonely and heartbreaking. That’s putting it mildly.

But prison can also be a blessing if one goes about it with a clear head and a strong will. Prison is an exclusive, no-frills institution of higher learning. Smash Mouth University. It teaches lessons that can’t be taught anywhere in the free world. A man can lose everything he loves, but he can find his true self behind bars. All the bullshit is stripped away, and all the lies laid bare.

I currently reside at the Minnesota Correctional Facility—Lino Lakes. I am the editor of the prison newspaper, the Lino Lakes Ledger. I’ll be here until the end of 2013, at which time I will go out to the minimum-custody camp and then to work-release in a halfway house.

As it stands today, I’m just hitting the home stretch on what’s been one hell of a long, strange trip. I don’t even recognize the person I was four years ago, and that alone is worth the price of admission.

My name is Tim Boland, and that is my story.

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Tim Boland

About the Author

Tim Boland is also known as Convict #232240. He is Senior Editor at the The Lino Ledger, the newspaper at the Minnesota Correctional Facility-Lino Lakes, where he writes a series of essays on prison life. He is, in his own words, "not a thug or an ice-cold menace or a career loser but a once-promising kid from the suburbs who went to State (St. Cloud) on a baseball ride and majored in creative writing and wrote for the campus paper and chased tight skirts and noble dreams but then one day drifted off and got reckless and lost in a ten-year cocaine smog and ended up arriving at a colossal achievement in idiocy." He's scheduled for release in 2015.
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