Medium Security Express
by Jimmy TayounBiddle Publishing Company64 pages, $7.95.A friend of mine works for a lawyer, and she says that every time one of the firm's clients gets sent to jail, they give them a copy of Jimmy Tayoun's book, Going to Prison? from a big box they have in the office.Jimmy chuckled knowingly when I told him that, and said, "They don't have any big box of books. They bought one book and Xeroxed it, and that's what they give them. That's what they all do."With lawyers engaging in copyright infringement, how's an ex-con supposed to make a decent living? Jimmy Tayoun is the ex-Philadelphia councilman and state rep who got out of the can last year after doing a three-year bit for obstruction of justice, income tax evasion and bribery of public officials, joining an ever-growing roster of public servants for whom a jail term seems to be the exit vehicle of choice from office. For Philadelphia politicians, jail is sort of an exclusive club, like the U.S. Senate.I chuckled when I read in the papers that Jim was writing this book while he was in the slams. It was a typical Tayoun move: making the best of a bad situation, and sort of thumbing his nose at the system while doing it.I have to tell you up front that I've always liked Jim Tayoun. When I worked for neighborhood newspapers in Philadelphia, I never had a phone call to Tayoun go unanswered, and he even showed up at my last wedding as a special guest attraction, scaring the wits out of my late ex-father-in-law, who thought the two guys in sunglasses and dark suits--Jimmy and his driver--getting out of the big, black car were mobsters come on business. When he recognized Tayoun, it was like he saw Santa Claus, he was so relieved.Size-wise, at 64 pages of what looks like 12-point type, Going to Prison? isn't War and Peace, and, considering that the last 24 pages are devoted to an appendix of Federal Correctional Institutes and Camps, it isn't even the length of Uncle Wiggly in Connecticut, where there is a federal prison at Danbury, according to the appendix. Tayoun did his time and writing at the Schuylkill Prison Camp in Minersville, Pennsylvania, a minimum security facility that is a satellite to the medium security institution there. Both were opened in 1991, again according to the appendix.If I were sentenced to a federal lockup, I would buy this book. At $7.95, it's a bargain in self-preservation, a regular travel guide to gaol, a Baedeker of the Brig, if you will. As one of the blurbs on the back cover says: "Going To Prison? is a practical guide for the first-time offender to help ease the transition to prison life and answer all the questions that arise following a guilty verdict or plea." There are also blurbs from a camp administrator, a prison caseworker, a custodial officer and a recreation officer, all extolling the values of this prison primer. There is also a blurb from an inmate that sounds suspiciously like Jimmy Tayoun hyping his own book. Witness: "Every person about to be stranded on the lonely island known as prison should have this book as his first companion." The rhetoric has the familiar purple Tayoun ring to it, although if I were going inside, I would rather have, say, Melanie Griffith as my first companion on the lonely island known as prison than a skinny book.Semantic quibbles aside, there is some good advice in Going to Prison?: Don't complain, stay active, mind your own business, walk away from fights and don't carry tales. Hell, this is good advice on the street, let alone in some federal pen.If you are actually going there, however, Jim Tayoun's book gives some wise pointers on jiggling the system so that your entrance into and stay in what he calls your "new world order as a prisoner" will be made easier because of what he dubs a "defense through knowledge." A former newspaper writer, Tayoun has a way with words that, compared to most of the claptrap that passes for rhetoric on today's political scene, makes him seem a regular Hemingway of the hoosegow.There is even a glossary of prison terms at the back of the book, where neophyte inmates can learn about "shots" on their records, which can be fought with copouts and BP9s, and the dread "diesel tours" that await those who move within the BOP.Tayoun says that he has sold 4,000 copies of Going to Prison? by mail order, and that after a recent story in People magazine, he has received a feeler from Simon & Schuster.In the meantime, Going to Prison? is available from Biddle Publishing Company, P.O. Box 1305, Brunswick, Maine 04011. For lawyers, the company also offers a special deal on Xerox paper.