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Saturday, August 17, 2019  Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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The Slice

My Thanksgiving in jail

Sometimes, when the upcoming holiday looms and I see unsuspecting twentysomething reporters moving about the newsroom, I recall my Thanksgiving in jail.

This was in 1980 or 1981. I was a general assignments reporter in Tucson. It was Thanksgiving week.

One day I looked up from my typewriter and saw the city editor ambling toward me.

Jon Kamman was a decent, super-smart guy. He was lanky with a sly smile.

He asked about my plans for Thanksgiving.

How sweet, I thought. He knows I'm new in town and have no family in Arizona. I could guess what was coming.

So I declared myself perfectly available to come over to his house for dinner on Thursday.

Alas, I had misunderstood.

We need somebody to work on Thanksgiving, he said.

Oh.

But he said it wasn't all bad news. He already had an assignment for me.

He wanted me to get together with a photographer and go have Thanksgiving dinner at the Pima County Jail.

So that's what we did.

My paper, the Arizona Daily Star, would win a Pulitzer in the near future. It would not be for my dinner-at-the-jail story.

I don't remember anything about the feature we produced. But I do recall that all of the inmates I spoke with were innocent of the crimes of which they had been convicted. All of them.

I've been in several jails and prisons in the course of my 40 years of newspapering and this seems to hold true everywhere. Remarkable.

Anyway, I did learn a lesson that holiday: Be suspicious of smiling editors headed your way.

Nothing that has happened in the decades since has prompted me to rethink that.



The Slice

The online home for Paul Turner's musings and interactions with disciples of The Slice.