Updated: Oct 5, 2021
David Suro is a former inmate who spent almost five years in the Colorado Department of Corrections prison system. Since his release in 2019, Dave has been focusing his efforts on prison reform by working as a legal consultant. He also works as a motivational speaker by sharing his experiences as an inmate and encouraging others to overcome challenges in their own lives.
The Process Behind "The Word on The Yard: Stories from D.O.C. # 166054"
Q: What inspired you to get this book written?
A: I was inspired by friends and family who encouraged me to share my stories in a way that could reach more people. As I told them stories, they were amazed at how much different prison was than how they had imagined it to be.
Q: What do you hope to achieve in releasing your story to the public?
A: I don't have clear goals in terms of what I hope the book achieves. Initial feedback is that people have enjoyed the stories, and I am happy to hear that. For me, the achievement comes from the process of creating the book with the help of a great author and publisher.
Q: When you posted an ad on Craigslist for a writer, who did you have in mind? What drew you to choose Zoe?
A: I had a recent college graduate in mind. I wanted to work with a skilled author who was open-minded to new ideas. Of the responses to my ad, Zoe's clearly stood out as being among the best. She included samples of her writing from a college newspaper and I was impressed by her writing. When we met at the library, it was clear from the very beginning that our personalities would work well together. The decision to work with Zoe was easy to make.
Q: Was it difficult at times to share your experience? Was there any particular time you can remember that was especially hard to put into words?
A: It is always difficult to remember unpleasant times. But, it was not difficult to share my experiences. Zoe was very understanding during our interviews and always respected my feelings. There were several times we decided to change the subject when I became more emotional, then return to it later.
The hardest part to put into words is the feeling of time. It is a perspective that is unique to people who have been incarcerated. We played around with the idea of how to express that there is never a day off in prison without dwelling on the concept. I think Zoe managed to express the concept well.
Q: What is your favorite part of the book?
A: My favorite part of the book is the story about Beau and I having the stomach flu at the same time, sharing a tiny cell with a commode, and being just plain miserable. Compared to that, everything in daily life seems pretty easy to manage.
Q: How has your opinion of the U.S. prison system changed from the time pre-prison when you were working as a chiropractor to now?
A: My opinions of the prison system are completely different than they were prior to being a part of it. Mostly, I have the mixed emotions that come from a thorough understanding of an complex system with incredible complex problems. One thing I know for certain, though, is that I am strongly opposed to the industry of corporate prisons.
Q: What is one thing you wish the general public better understood about the U.S. prison system?
A: I wish the public had a better understanding of the private prison industry. It is like a dirty little secret in most cases. Prior to being in one, I had no idea private prisons existed. I had no idea investors could buy stock in incarceration. It is a deplorable business.
Q: What advice do you have for family members and loved ones of prisoners?
A: Friends and families of prisoners need to understand that prison life can be almost as full and rich as any other life. Helping their incarcerated loved one work on ways to use the time in a positive way is something I think most inmates need. It is difficult to find good role models in prison, so friends and family can contribute by being positive and encouraging.
Q: Prison is an incredibly multi-faceted, transformative experience. What is the biggest change you've noticed in your perspective on life since serving your sentence?
A: The biggest change in my perspective is that I now understand that every prisoner's story is, first and foremost, a human story.
Q: How are you finding life since your release? What challenges did you experience immediately following your release? What struggles do you have on a day-to-day basis?
A: Since my release, I have had challenges finding employment and challenges finding housing. Background checks will be a hurdle for me for the rest of my life. Fortunately, I have been able to become self-employed and have a friend who is renting one of her apartment units to me.
Q: What advice do you have for those who have been recently released from prison?
A: Release from prison is a huge event in a person's life. It is almost impossible for a person to navigate the transition without any help. So, my advice would be to encourage other new releases to utilize every resource they have at their disposal.
Even with help, though, there are certain to be setbacks. It is essential to not allow small setbacks to turn into larger problems.