The Camp by Ralph Inzunza. ISBN:978-1548274757. $23.95..
The Camp is a novel inspired by real events, and the story emerges from many conversations with inmates, whom had received ten, fifteen, and twenty-year sentences for non-violent offenses at the Atwater Federal Prison Camp in Central California. The protagonist is a law and order, nerdy politician, former Deputy Mayor of a large California city, who goes to prison for “dishonest service of government,” and is feeling sorry for himself until the minute he steps inside the fence. El Mayor, as he was called by the inmates, narrates for us first-hand the unfair plight that many of his fellow Paisas, Chicano inmates, are suffering, and the impact of incarceration on working class families of color in America. As the only person of Mexican descent at the camp with a college degree, who had never smoked a “joint” in his life, he begins to transform in order to survive, and eventually extract his own judicial revenge.
Ralph Inzunza received a Bachelor’s Degree in Political Science and a Master’s Degree in Latin American Studies from San Diego State University. He ran political campaigns and worked on Capitol Hill in Washington D.C. for a United States Congressman, and as a Chief of Staff to a San Diego City Councilman. He ran for a seat on the San Diego City Council in 2001 as a vocal advocate for the downtrodden and the Latino community. After two years of elective office, the downtown power brokers decided they had seen enough of his activism. In 2003 the FBI raided his office, and he was indicted on frivolous charges, “dishonest service of government.” He fought the charges for nine years, eventually lost, and was forced to surrender in January of 2012. He served for fourteen months at the Atwater Federal Prison Camp, where he began collecting stories of other inmates, and writing about his life altering experience at “The Camp.”