Prisoner in the Kitchen by William Bonham
In the 1970s, Will Bonham was looking for a job. He had cooked a little here and a little there, but he and his wife had moved back to Montana, where there were not many jobs. Will went on an interview for one of the only open jobs there were, a prison cook. The job was far away, and he and his wife would have to move away from his wife’s parents’ house.
Will went on the interview and was offered the job the same day. He called and asked his wife about it, but decided to take the job. The town was small and the prison comprised most of downtown. The man who hired him gave Will a list of places to look for apartments. It wasn’t long at all before Will was on his first day of the job. He had a man overseeing things a little, Bill.
Will was never supposed to bring the convicts anything and he was always supposed to keep an eye on them. They would try to sneak things out of the kitchen. They would try to make knives out of anything. They would try to make prison alcohol. They were not to be trusted, even though they seemed likable.
Will couldn’t help but liking a few of his new charges. They seemed nice and friendly, and intelligent, some were charismatic, some were funny. Will, at first, suffered the attitude that perhaps some of these men had been wrongly imprisoned, when he learned of their crimes. As time went on, less than a year, Will’s attitude changed. The men were rough. They got into fights. Things were always going on. Will started not to care about some things. He brought something into the prison for a convict. He let one convict beat up another. It was after less than year that Will decided that he needed to quit being a prison cook and find something else.
What I liked
This was a rather interesting memoir. The only other memoir I recall reading that was set in a prison was Orange is the New Black. Prison isn’t really a place most of us want to think about. It’s an interesting world to read about, certainly. I liked that I did get a little insight about how life operates in a prison.
What I didn’t like
I don’t like Will. He just doesn’t seem like a likable guy. He is writing about his twenty-three year old self, but sounds as if he’s much older than he was in the story. I think that Will was probably less composed in real life than he seemed in this book.
I don’t like that I tend to agree with the idea that people in prison deserve whatever crap gets thrown at them. It’s a sentiment mentioned in this book, that nobody should care whatever happens to people in prison. I agree in the sense that if you didn’t want to get treated like that then you shouldn’t have done something to get sent to prison, but, they’re still people and should be treated in a somewhat humane manner, although, I don’t think I would put up too big of a fuss if a child rapist got beaten badly when a guard turned his head, for just a minute. If you don’t want to get beaten in prison, don’t go to prison; don’t do something that will send you to prison, capisce? I mean, it makes lots of sense. Again, though, I think prisoners should be treated with a degree of humanity. They need food, healthcare, water, and some type of stimulation as much as everyone else who doesn’t live in prison.
Some of the people who Will mentions in this book seem like nice guys. They seem like normal people, but they’re rapists and murderers. They may seem nice on the outside, but they’re still awful on the inside and part of me still says they deserve awful treatment because of their awfulness. I think ultimately, an awful person, is an awful person. Just because someone seems nice, doesn’t mean that they’re not a child molester.
I think part of the reason some of these ideas seem upsetting is that we tend to think there should be some outward marker of badness, like, you should be able to tell if someone is bad just by looking at them, or talking to them for a minute, but you can’t.
Do prisoners deserve humane treatment?
Is it disconcerting to know that some very bad people, act like angels in prison?