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Air operations over the South Pacific
Photo courtesy U.S. Army A.A.F., Library of Congress

Vladimir Putin’s unprovoked invasion of Ukraine has left the rest of the world wondering: How safe are we, really? 

In my prison, we’ve been debating the following question: What would the U.S. government do with our prison populations in the event of a large war or enemy invasion?

Probably because we have too much spare time on our hands, we inmates often wonder about such hypothetical scenarios. Here are some ideas I’ve heard spoken around here.

This first one is the most common: “The U.S. government will either bomb the prisons or execute all inmates by firing squad.” 

I sincerely hope that is not the plan. The grim take may simply reflect the low esteem most inmates feel society holds for us. 

Another possibility I’ve heard is not much less macabre: The prison guards will leave us all locked in our cells and abandon the prison, leaving us to die. 

The last is my favorite: The U.S. government will draft us as infantry. Every year, hundreds of inmate volunteers are trained to fight wildfires across the U.S. I hope I would be offered the chance to be useful and to perhaps make up, at least a little, of my debt to society. I would happily defend our country.

The U.S. government seems to have crisis contingency plans for every imaginable scenario, from natural disasters to national defense. I am sure someone has planned for how to handle our prisons in the event of an enemy invasion. 

Whatever that plan is, I pray it is never needed.

Disclaimer: The views in this article are those of the author. Prison Journalism Project has verified the writer’s identity and basic facts such as the names of institutions mentioned.

Ray K. is a writer incarcerated in Missouri.