I’d heard Shon Hopwood interviewed on the Rubin report quite a while ago.  Now that I’m living in Toronto, I have the Toronto Public Library at my disposal (which has a far superior selection to the Markham Public Library).  They had Hopwood’s book, which I’d been meaning to read for a while, and luckily was able to pick it up before the current coronavirus mass hysteria shut down the library and most of the world:

The story in this book is really amazing.

Part of the book describes life in prison.  What I know of prison comes from a couple sources.  The first of those sources is the most unreliable (movies), the second is an old childhood friend who I saw after he’d served some time (*), and the last is a family member who is now a guard in the US prison system.  This book added a bit more color to my understanding of that very different world.  There are probably lots of prison memoirs, but this is one that is exceptionally well written.  I really loved the way it starts by telling a story right off the bat.

The improbability of Shon’s story is truly phenomenal and inspiring.  The subset of Shon’s life that is described in this book ends with him starting as a law student, but I knew from the Rubin interview and Wikipedia others that he completed that schooling and went on to work as both a lawyer and a law professor!  In his book Shon ends up, somewhat reluctantly, attributing some of his miraculous story to a higher power.  Perhaps a higher power was at work, but so was a lot of very hard work.

I’d highly recommend this book.  It provides a glimpse of prison life, some peeks of aspects of injustice of the US justice system (which is probably mirrored by Canadian law), and shows how Shon managed to avoid the trap of perpetually cycling through iterations of prison and crime with a with a combination of hard work and luck.  Along the way, it tells a very entertaining and inspiring story.


(*) I had a friend who had the misfortune to end up dating the daughter of one the Toronto Chinese mafia kingpins when we were both in high school.  Things didn’t go well for him after that dating selection, to say the least, and it’s been over 25 years since I heard from him.  He did tell me all about guards on the take, butt smuggling of drugs and cigarettes into prison, and the absurdity of airport security theater given how many airport staff were effectively paid mafia employees.  I’m sure that airport mafia payroll is still essentially the same, despite airport security theater now being far worse than it was in the 90s — criminals can still get the guns and drugs through the system easily, but we have to throw away our toothpaste and finger nail clippers, and dangerous too-big water bottles.