In this first memoir about life in the Missouri State Penitentiary by a worker who was neither a prisoner nor a guard, Larry E. Neal reveals a portrait of prison life very different from common conceptions. As a maintenance worker, Neal led prisoner work crews, and his stories show that life inside the prison walls could be surprisingly lighthearted, with prisoners and staff playing pranks on each other and crawling through dark tunnels together. In addition to a rare insider’s view into prison humor, Unguarded Moments also gives readers a window into the rhythms of daily life inside and the shared humanity of everyone behind the walls.
These stories about life in the Missouri State Penitentiary are funny, insightful, and thought-provoking. Larry E. Neal describes himself as a “hillbilly”; if so, he’s a smart, very observant hillbilly, with a great sense of humor. Read this book; you will never think about prison life in the same way again.
—Dr. Gary Kremer, Executive Director, State Historical Society of Missouri
This book is about prison life, but not in just any prison. This prison was once called the “bloodiest forty-seven acres in America.” Who knew such a notorious prison could be so funny? Unguarded Moments shows readers a view of working behind prison walls that most of us (thankfully) never see. From prison politics to pranks to inmate escapades, these stories from a man who worked in the prison plumbing shop give us a hilarious glimpse of the pen, and the understanding that, felons or not, people are just folks.
— Jason Offutt, author of Haunted Missouri and What Lurks Beyond