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Resource

A CONVERSATION WITH A MIDWEST AUTHOR

STORY BY MELISSA BRADFORD PHOTOS COURTESY OF ANITA NEAL HARRISON

W

hen Larry Neal would come home from his job as labor supervisor at the Missouri State Penitentiary, he would tell his kids stories about what crazy incidents happened that day while he worked sideby-side with inmates. Neal wrote down his memories in the penitentiary’s newsletter. Years later his daughter, Anita Harrison, pieced together his stories to create the memoir “Unguarded Moments: Stories of Working Inside the Missouri State Penitentiary.” Do you feel like your time working at the penitentiary changed either your outlook on prisons or life in general? NEAL: It absolutely did as far as prisons. You do see them less like some monster and more like another human being, just a person like anybody else. And then some of them aren’t like that at all. I’ve worked with people that absolutely had no conscience whatsoever, could talk to you about killing people and have less feeling about it then you would if you run over an animal on the road and was telling somebody about it.

detours 34 winter 2014

In some of your chapters, like when you describe scenes of being injured and you’re bleeding from your head, you still keep a sense of humor. Do you think a sense of humor is necessary to work in a place like the Penitentiary? NEAL: Not necessary, but it sure makes things a lot better. I think that’s just life. I mean, I’ve always been that way. I’ve always seen the funny side of life, and I think if you can see the humor in situations and never take yourself too serious, you just enjoy life a whole lot better so that’s kind of been my philosophy. “Unguarded Moments” provides a first hand account of what is essentially Missouri history. What do you hope your readers take away? NEAL: Oh my goodness. Probably more than anything, I hope that people laugh. I hope that they can see the humor in the situations and can really enjoy a good laugh about what happened there. At the same time, it is a segment of history and the prison in the ‘50s was just an extremely violent place. “Time Magazine” once called it the bloodiest 47 acres in America. And it was bloody.

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Detours Winter 2014 Issue  

Detours Magazine Winter 2014 Issue — Read stories about the Arrow Rock Lyceum Theatre (pg. 26) and see the beauty of Missouri’s murals (pg....

Detours Winter 2014 Issue  

Detours Magazine Winter 2014 Issue — Read stories about the Arrow Rock Lyceum Theatre (pg. 26) and see the beauty of Missouri’s murals (pg....

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