"Am Not An Inmate ... I Am A Man. And I Have Potential"
by Deena Prichep
August 29, 2014
If you want to know how prison can shape a man, talk to Dan Huff. He's spent more than half of his 59 years locked up. He says he was "raised by the state of California."
"Even judges, when they would send me away — looking back at it now — they [were] kind of more like a father figure sitting up there," he says. "Closer to fatherly than any father that I ever had."
Those judges had plenty of reason to be concerned about him: Huff used heroin. He committed robberies.
"I'd go to the spoon, and I'd get a pistol. Or I'd go to the hardware store and get a shotgun and a hacksaw, and leave a piece of that barrel in the parking lot," Huff says.
Huff has served time for robbery, prison escape and manslaughter. He felt comfortable behind bars.
"I surrounded myself with other people, and we patted each other on the back and told each other how swell we was," he says. "We was the real men — and everybody else is a slug or worthless or a mark."
About 2 million men are currently serving time in prison or jail in America. For many of them, incarceration has played a big role in shaping their sense of what it means to be a man. And for several former inmates now living in Portland, Ore., like Huff, being on the outside has meant forming a whole new definition of manhood.