The election of the prison warden: “Imprison us!” cried the townspeople.

The prison warden couldn’t believe his luck. With his personal charm (which was invisible to many, but widely reported), he had managed to secure a job in this tough economy as a prison warden with little relevant experience. There had been an election, and he had won. Even better, he had slowly built a strong power base for himself over the few years he was employed with this particular prison. Earlier today, he had been notified by his boss that for every person who sought being a prisoner under his jurisdiction, he would get a sizable bonus. He had been grateful but did not really see why the prisoners would want to be under his jurisdiction as opposed to that of other wardens in the area.

 

But one day it occurred to him that if he gave the prisoners special gifts and privileges, they would run to him. So he experimented to see if this new idea would work. He started handing out cigarettes to those who wanted them. Soon these people told their friends on the outside about these bonus treats. Eventually, prisoners in other jails in the surrounding area made it known that they wanted to be in this warden’s prison. Each prisoner who transferred from the other prison to this one put more money in the charismatic warden’s pocket.

 

In addition to the cigarettes, the prison warden thought it might be a good idea to offer other treats in order to consolidate his ever-growing power. So he decided to hand out money so the prisoners could bribe the guards for even more favours. Soon all the prisoners in the surrounding land were clamouring to be part of this prison.

 

But then one day, something really strange happened. People who weren’t prisoners committed crimes so they would be put in jail. In fact, people moved to the area over which the warden had jurisdiction so they could be imprisoned under his unique leadership. He became a superstar. The local news media interviewed him and his star ascended even higher. People begged to give up their freedom. The female prisoners especially loved him. He allowed them in his infinite wisdom to destroy anything that inconvenienced them or caused them unhappiness. He gave them more rights than anyone ever had before. They welcomed the bars that imprisoned them; they sought them out.

 

But his popularity was never greater when he informed his prisoners that the reason they were in prison was not because of their own crimes but the crimes of the other prison wardens in the area. It was only right, he reasoned, that the score be settled, and these innocent prisoners were compensated for their injuries which had caused them to be jailed. So great was the warden’s power that he was able to take the money from the other wardens without their even realizing it. He then gave the money to the prisoners. He did not, however, give his own money, because he realized that more good would be served if he kept all of his own money. He was so wise that he, more than anyone else, knew what was right for his prison.

 

After a few years, in name only did he remain a prison warden. His real title was superstar. His fans would hear nothing against him. True freedom was a gift they preferred not to receive.

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