Thursday, December 27, 2007

Let’s hope the apple falls far from the tree

When I read the climactic final action scene in James' Patterson's Step on a Crack,which takes place in the famous Sing Sing prison in Ossining, New York, a small, soft bell rang in my head. Hadn’t my mother-in-law once said that a relative of hers was imprisoned there a long time ago?

I asked my mother-in-law recently about this, and she confirmed that, yes, her grandfather had been imprisoned there for a few years. She doesn’t know the nature of his crime; she doesn’t know the exact dates or duration of his imprisonment; but she does have one letter that her grandfather wrote to her grandmother while he was incarcerated. Using this letter, which includes his prisoner number, she plans to investigate the matter further.

So now I’m connecting the dots: this means that my husband’s great-grandfather was a convicted criminal! My mother-in-law is a lovely woman who has been supremely law-abiding her entire life. And by all accounts, her own mother, the daughter of the convicted man, was of a similar disposition. But what if the outlaw gene strikes only the male members of the family? Should I worry that I’ll one day be visiting my husband in Sing Sing?

If so, he’ll follow a long line of famous prisoners, including mobster Lucky Luciano, bank robber Willie Sutton, and spies Julius and Ethel Rosenberg. The prison has been featured in several well-known films, including Analyze This (1999) and Analyze That (2002). In fact, according to the prison superintendent, so many movies have been filmed there that several staff members have Screen Actors Guild cards. There’s even a Sing Sing museum down the street from the local high school.

Click here to visit a terrific history of the prison.


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