Shanks. Snitches. Hooch. Skanks. It takes a special kind of person to be good at “The Job” – a corrections officer at a state prison – and Sara Lunsford was that person. It wasn’t that at six feet tall and with seven tattoos she was a force to be reckoned with, and it wasn’t that her mental toughness and disdain for whining made her formidable, no, what made Sara a good officer was her steadfast commitment to be fair, firm, and consistent. With the sex offenders, child killers, and pedophiles, with the feces-smearers, shank-wielders, and predators, Sara demanded respect and gave it in return; she followed the rules and was firm that other inmates and officers follow them too; she played no favorites and turned in other officers who did.
Yes, Sara well deserved her reputation as a good officer; she also earned her reputation as a lousy wife, bad mother, and uncaring daughter. She had to separate from her husband, also a corrections officer, because they couldn’t be in the same room without fighting. A heavy drinker who often woke up with a hangover, she spent little time with her girls and chose not to be with her mother when, sick with cancer, her mother needed her most. Sara took great pride in her professional life, but her personal life was imprisoning her in misery. Did she have the inner strength to choose happiness instead?
Sara Lunsford chronicles her journey through her literal and metaphorical prisons in her memoir Sweet Hell on Fire. Candid, compelling, and, as befits a prison memoir, absolutely filled with profanity and stories of the obscene and nasty, this is a powerful memoir of a strong woman who escaped her prison and found happiness.