When Dan McDonald sings for Dirty Ink & Mutton Chops his "Woke up in Windham," a true 12-bar blues number, am I supposed to feel bad for him? "Dagger in my back, life's way off track/Went down the long path," he sings in a thin tenor. "Wound up in this jail, with no money for bail . . . stuck here in Windham, jammed up in this cell/Trapped here in Windham, this place I call hell."
Okay. Sucks to be in jail, I'm sure. But there is a natural reaction to argue that there are certainly ways of avoiding winding up in such a place, right?
Who are prisoners? What separates them from those who never find themselves incarcerated? What does the future look like from the inside? These are the questions these albums elicit, and they're questions both worth asking and considering.
"I don't separate the Department of Corrections from us as a society," says Svendsen. "If we wanted to fund more rehabilitative programming, we would do it. And if we funded it they would do it."
That's the real question these albums force us to ask: How do we really want to deal with those who commit crimes? Do we want to punish them? Or do we want to make it so they don't commit crimes again?
Sam Pfeifle can be reached email@example.com.
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