A man smiled widely and pressed his face against
the slit.’That’s my brother,’ Sofia said, her eyes
filling with tears.
Every semester my students from Voices Behind Bars, a class I teach at Middlesex Community College in Massachusetts, go to prison. They used to visit state institutions but now that the Massachusetts state prisons do not offer tours (perhaps because it is a hassle to have outsiders trooping through them and criticizing what they see), the students take a tour of Billerica House of Correction, where they experience confinement to some degree and listen for an hour to an incarcerated man talk about his life and what it is like to be behind bars.
Originally, the Middlesex House of Correction, which was built in 1929, housed 300 men. Now it has more than 1,100, after a $37 million dollar expansion which prison officials say was to accommodate the closing of the Cambridge Jail — not without objection from activists and community members who opposed more prison building (actually costing $43 million per The Lowell Sun.)