Smell of Freedom | Christopher Warren

images by Christopher Warren, inmates released from prison and lives in the halfway house for a couple months | Christopher Warren | Resilience2reform

Originally published 1/24/2020 on Construction 2 Style

Hey guys, Chris here, Noah’s friend.

After eleven years of incarceration, I am now free.

I have stepped into a world I had long left behind.

To be now in San Francisco from South Dakota was many things.

What sticks out after these few days is the smell. The smell of freedom.

Can you imagine the smell of freedom?  The smell of freedom is two things: it is its own symphony of aromas, and, more importantly, it is the absence of the smell of prison.  

The smell of prison, even camps, is a foul stench. It’s the smell of bait fish, the smell of human gas, the smell of desperation and loneliness. Some men can mask these things or ignore them. Even in the good days when smiles are worn, these smells are still there.

In the basement at Yankton that serves as a television room, the stench was always on the march, goose-stepping. It is hard to know if the smell is more the sweat-drenched, 250 lb guy who refuses to shower, a leaky bowel gas discharge from an unsub, or five-year-old shelf-stable bagels and fish packets being microwaved. Probably: it’s all three and then some.

The smell of prison causes an unfelt stress, silent, unnoticeable. It’s in the institutional soap; the bleach cleaned hallways, the paint chipped metal doors, the smell of no liberty, no pursuit of happiness. It is the smell of a real Matrix, of a false reality that actually exists.

Then one day, thousands of days later, the door opens. And once the threshold is crossed, the change is subtle, and it takes a while to realize: it smells different. The stench is gone. And in its place are new smells.

And yes, there is the occasional whiff of desperation from a homeless encampment or urine under an overpass. But there is the smell of restaurants, the smell of cologne, the smell of car honking, and couples walking hand-in-hand. The smell of a first interview.

The smell of new jeans, of a bed, of home. The smell that has struck me the most has been the air, the coastal San Francisco Bay air. The salt, the energy, the vibe. All surfing the aromatic airwaves. And then it comes, slowly, and it is realized these smells have a name. This symphony of smells, it’s the smell of hope. Of a new day. Of opportunity. 

  And what a sweet smell it is.

And here I am smelling my first workout in freedom after 11 years. 

No longer from the inside by a free man from San Fran, 


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