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I have a friend on death row. He’s the most remarkable person I know | Rebecca Solnit

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To live for 41 years in a small cage in concrete is to be profoundly sensorily deprived. Recently my friend Jarvis Masters asked me to describe moss

I have one friend whose calls I always take no matter where I am or what I’m doing. Jarvis Masters calls me collect from death row, when he can get the phone – I’ve never seen quite how this works, but the prison guards haul some kind of apparatus to the small cage in which he’s been confined for the past 30-something years and he dials out. I keep a fund topped up for these calls. The calls, which a voice reminds us may be monitored, are automatically terminated after 15 minutes. If they don’t take the phone away for someone else to use, he can call back.

We laugh and joke a lot and talk about everything under the sun, but not much about daily life on death row in San Quentin state prison. That’s usually not what he wants to talk about, although, during a recent in-person visit, he told a very funny story about Charles Manson from when Manson had the cell next to him. To live for 41 years in a small cage in a concrete structure is to be profoundly sensorily deprived, and that’s made him eager for secondhand evidence of the outside world.

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