Identify the crime that Hard Rock committed, and discuss both its victims and its punishment.


Post one paragraph that reflects upon the relationship between crime and punishment in “Hard Rock Returns to Prison.” Identify the crime that Hard Rock committed, and discuss both its victims and its punishment.

Etheridge Knight

Read the Biography

Hard Rock Returns to Prison [1986]

from the Hospital for the Criminal Insane

Hard Rock was “known not to take no shit From nobody,” and he had the scars to prove it: Split purple lips, lumped ears, welts above His yellow eyes, and one long scar that cut 5Across his temple and plowed through a thick Canopy of kinky hair.

The WORD was that Hard Rock wasn’t a mean nigger Anymore, that the doctors had bored a hole in his head, Cut out part of his brain, and shot electricity 10Through the rest. When they brought Hard Rock back, Handcuffed and chained, he was turned loose, Like a freshly gelded stallion, to try his new status. And we all waited and watched, like indians at a corral, To see if the WORD was true.

15As we waited we wrapped ourselves in the cloak Of his exploits: “Man, the last time, it took eight Screws to put him in the Hole.” “Yeah, remember when he Smacked the captain with his dinner tray?” “He set The record for time in the Hole—67 straight days!” 20“Ol Hard Rock! man, that’s one crazy nigger.” And then the jewel of a myth that Hard Rock had once bit A screw on the thumb and poisoned him with syphilitic spit.

The testing came, to see if Hard Rock was really tame. A hillbilly called him a black son of a bitch 25And didn’t lose his teeth, a screw who knew Hard Rock From before shook him down and barked in his face. And Hard Rock did nothing. Just grinned and looked silly,

His eyes empty like knot holes in a fence. And even after we discovered that it took Hard Rock 30Exactly 3 minutes to tell you his first name, We told ourselves that he had just wised up, Was being cool; but we could not fool ourselves for long,

And we turned away, our eyes on the ground. Crushed. He had been our Destroyer, the doer of things 35We dreamed of doing but could not bring ourselves to do, The fears of years, like a biting whip, Had cut grooves too deeply across our backs.

JOURNAL: Etheridge Knight, “Hard Rock Returns to Prison”

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