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Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Former Folsom Prison guard has big plans for new 'Big House' museum

SacbeeJim Brown was fresh out of the U.S. Army the first time the heavy metal gates of Folsom Prison slammed shut behind him.

Far from foreboding, the clanging sound struck his fancy, as did the thick granite mystique of California's second-oldest prison.

The place, he said, had personality.

Brown would clock 32 years there as a guard. He worked the watch- towers, his rifle at the ready. He walked the cellblocks, on the hunt for weapons and other contraband. For nearly half his tenure, he stood guard in the prison's psychiatric ward, protecting the medical staff and defusing tensions among un- predictable criminals.

"People (working at Folsom) always say, 'Well, I'm not scared,' " he said. "Well, you're a fool, then. That's how you get in trouble. Everybody in here can hurt you. You just have to be on your toes."

A gregarious, white-haired man of substantial size, Brown turns 67 next month. He retired from the prison 11 years ago, but he's never really left. He has written two histories of the institution and serves as the Folsom Prison Museum's operations manager. continue reading...

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