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To say that I was nonplussed to read “Montgomery County Prison Work Release Unit” on the side of a van pulling onto my path during a recent trail run might be an understatement.
‘Here I am, trying to enjoy my own work release – a release from my kids,’ I thought. ‘And you’re telling me I have to do it alongside a pack of skinheads and pimps?’
As I ran past the prisoners firing up their weed whackers and leaf blowers, I wondered if these were the “shake and bakers” who’d been arrested the previous week for cooking meth in local hotel rooms.
I spied a young girl, maybe 4, pedaling her pink bicycle toward the presumed felons. The girl’s father, occupied on his iPhone, trailed far behind. ‘Should I warn him?’ I wondered – and didn’t.
Instead, I continued my productive, interior whine. ‘Why doesn’t the county just post signs directing every jackhole straight to the back-trail entry to our neighborhood so that my house can be the next big B and E?’
Then it dawned on me. ‘That’s it!’ I thought. ‘Get these guys to my house!’
The last time I did any yard work was about a month-and-a-half ago. I was punished for my efforts with a pestilent case of poison ivy that required two doctor visits and 21 steroid pills to keep it from spreading to my eyes. So I started wondering if I could get my local department of corrections to expand their definition of “work release” to include community hours in my backyard.
To research this possibility, I dashed home, logged onto the prison’s website, and quickly became distracted by the list of “allowable items” for inmates, which I will now recount for you. (I should note that the syntax and punctuation is the county’s own.):
  • ONE BELT
  • TWO PAIR OF PAJAMAS
  • ONE ROBE
  • ONE SWEAT SHIRT (FOR EXERCISE)
  • TWO GYM SHORTS
  • ONE PAIR OF SWEAT PANTS (FOR EXERCISE)
  • ONE HAT
  • ONE PAIR GLOVES (SEASONAL OR WORK)
  • ONE JACKET (SEASONAL)
  • ONE PAIR OF SNEAKERS
  • ONE PAIR OF WORK BOOTS OR SHOES
  • ONE PAIR OF SHOWER SHOES
  • ONE HAIR DRYER; CURLING IRON
  • COSMETIC ITEMS/PERSONAL HYGIENE ITEMS (KEEPING WITH THE EXISTING COMMISARY LIST.)
  • ELECTRIC SHAVER
  • ALARM CLOCK(SMALL)
  • TWO PERSONAL TOWELS (NON WHITE)
  • TWO PAIR OF THERMALS (MARKED)
  • FIVE SETS OF WORK CLOTHES ONLY
  • TEN PAIR OF UNDERWEAR (MARKED)
  • TEN PAIR OF SOCKS (MARKED)
  • TEN UNDERSHIRTS (MARKED)

I mean, this is more gear than Outward Bound let me bring on a 28-day canoe trip in the boundary waters between Minnesota and Canada when I was 16. These prisoners are sporting more clothes than my three kids own, combined.
I’m not sure where all of this left me, except to find out that, according to the website, these well-heeled felons are not allowed to “partake of any intoxicating liquors, including beer or drugs/medications while on furlough.” Furlough?
Nor are they allowed to “frequent any establishment that serves alcoholic beverages.”
So I’ve decided that the next time I arrange my own prison break, I’ll skip the run and hit the bars instead.

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