2 for 1 review. One by me, and one by a prisoner.
This is such a sad story! Of course, you may know who the West Memphis 3 are, and you might know that they eventually got out of prison (which is yay!) but the reason they were put there (being not guilty) is because young kids lost their life, and that is the reason why this story is sad.
This is Damian’s story. It was partly written when he was still on Death Row. He and his 2 friends went through hell for so many years, because they were imprisoned for something so awful, all while knowing that the real killer was still walking the streets. Thankfully they were and are now released, but it doesn’t take away from the fact that Damian had to spend so many years on Death Row for something he didn’t do.
It’s a crazy story, and halfway through, you’ll want to know more, and you then find the documentaries. Of course you watch them asap, which just makes you even angrier, because who the fuck are these people?! HOW does the state attorney even sleep at night?! Ughh.. Anyway, I hate, hate! to say I ‘loved’ or ‘liked’ the book, because of the subject, but I did, and I liked the pictures and the insight into Damien’s life.
Below you’ll find a review written by a person who might know more about the subject than most of us. It’s written by a prisoner, and this is his reaction to the book. He read the book in Dec. 2013. As a little background info I can tell you, he was also imprisoned as a teenager, in max custody, and is now 31 years old. He wrote the review on paper, and I have typed it for him.
Life After Death – The tale of Damian Echols, the reluctant and unwilling star in the harrowing drama of the West Memphis 3, is a gripping and hauntingly accurate portrayal of exactly what it’s like to become the focus of the media and a community’s ire in the wake of the worst sort of tragedy, and what it’s like to go head to head with the so called justice system in the aftermath. The legal railroading, the conditions of jails and prisons, what they pass off as food, the behavior of the staff in such places – it’s insane, its corruption at its worst, and it’s all completely passes for a justice system in these United States.
Having been in prison many years since I was a teen, I can profoundly relate to his tale though my own situation has a few big differences. I thought that his portrayal of coping with many years of long term confinement was extremely comprehensive and he evoked my deepest sympathy. Long term isolation is brutal on the mind and body. It puts even the strongest psyche through an extremely harsh war of attrition and I’ve seen many people driven absolutely insane by the experience. Although Damian is undoubtedly damaged by the trauma and will bear scars for the rest of his life, I’m both impressed and inspired by his stamina and perseverance he survived his trials and tribulations and not only came out of it sane, but used the experience to expand his mind and grow emotionally, and spiritually. He won his war of attrition.
From my own prisoner’s point of view, Damian is now the richest man alive. I imagine the experience of 18 years in Hell definitely gives him a more profound appreciation for simple things like sunsets, the night sky, and love more than anyone who hasn’t been denied such things, for long periods of time, will ever understand. In fact, my one complaint is I didn’t want the book to end! As a person who dreams of what it will be like finally to embark on a real life science fiction adventure in a world unlike anything I recall, I wish he would’ve been a bit more comprehensive about the experience of getting out – the challenge, the joys, the many things average people take for granted as part of everyday mundane life, such as physical affection and technology. I wanted to live the experience vicariously.
Still, it was a excellent read, a book I feel anyone could benefit from reading especially if they’re interested in a real view into the justice system at its worst. In fact, it should be required reading for anyone seeking employment or education in criminal justice. Perhaps with awareness, many much needed changes would finally be made. I, myself, will carry his story with me to use as an inspirational buoy when my own stamina and perseverance feel worn a bit thin, because I too am determined to win my own war of attrition.