I’m going to say this publically and honestly, baring my soul to the zine world & bracing for the fallout – I get very nervous when prisoners write to me. First of all, they don’t know me personally. I have no idea what their intentions are in writing to a stranger. I don’t know what horrible, possibly violent, crime they have been found guilty of. I have visions of a legion of sociopathic men behind bars who now know my address. It scares the hell out of me.
However when I get beyond my anxiety, reality is somewhat different. I can not even imagine what it feels like to be known by a number rather than a name. The “justice” system is flawed and fails people that collide with it time and time again. Way too many people are warehoused in jails and prisons with no treatment, hope, or vocation. The punishment we inflict upon people is brutal and rarely equal to the “offense”. Some people behind bars have broken no law whatsoever. Many are poor, indigent, have the “wrong” color skin, pissed someone off, were at the wrong place at the wrong time, or the “authorities” just decided who was guilty and built a case around that decision. I’m an empathic, intelligent human being who can question conventional thought and social norms and yet society has instilled a terror in me of anyone who is incarcerated. That’s some powerful mojo.
Cloud Factory #1, a collaborative zine between Ryan Homsley (who is in jail) and Laura Walker (who is not) is a revelation in humanity. Ryan generously shares glimpses into his daily life and thoughts. Ryan’s artwork is surreal and edgy. His essays are nuanced and poetic. Ryan and Laura pose one another questions and slowly through the written word and the magic of mail, both create a strong connection. Readers of Cloud Factory are witness to the beauty of an unfolding communication.
I don’t want to say too much about Cloud Factory other than I highly recommend reading a copy for yourself. It has opened my eyes and changed my mind about responding to prisoners. You can write to Ryan Homsley #747267 MCDC
1120 SW Third Ave
Portland OR 97204. Laura Walker (who also publishes the Welcome to Bend zine) can be
reached at PO Box 8030
Bend Oregon 97708.