Folsom Prison Blues

by LAURA SULLIVAN

In January 1968, Johnny Cash set up his band on a makeshift stage in the cafeteria at Folsom State Prison in California.

"Hello, I'm Johnny Cash," he said in his deep baritone to thunderous applause. Song after song, the inmates thumped their fists and cheered from the same steel benches now bolted to the floor.

The morning that Cash played may have been the high-water mark for Folsom — and for the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation.

The men in the cafeteria lived alone in their own prison cells. Almost every one of them was in school or learning a professional trade. The cost of housing them barely registered on the state budget. And when these men walked out of Folsom free, the majority of them never returned to prison.

It was a record no other state could match.

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