The obituary assignment at California’s San Quentin State Prison came with a twist, says the Los Angeles Times. Instead of writing about a pop star’s overdose or a political leader’s assassination, journalism professor William Drummond of the University of California Berkeley told his incarcerated students they would be writing their own death.their own. They would choose how they would die, and they would sum up their own lives however they wanted.
“I did it as a way to find out how these guys had reconciled their crimes,” Drummond said. “Were they able to take a critical look at what got them in trouble?” The inmates were uncomfortable. They were best known for their worst decisions, including stabbing a man to death, gunning down a bystander, robbing banks. Drummond wanted to know: “What is your real value?” The resulting obituaries, he said, were reflective, outlandish, candid, evasive, aspirational. They showed how people who have wronged society would like to be remembered.