One user, for example, took to Quora to pose the following question: “What does it feel like to murder someone?” As Betabeat notes, a few inmates from northern California’s San Quentin State Prison logged onto the site to shed light on the topic. The first response came from 34-year-old Tommy Winfrey, who’s serving 25 years to life for second degree murder with gun enhancement. In a six-paragraph response, he outlines the circumstances that led to the murder he committed at age 19 and how he has coped with the repercussions. Here’s an excerpt:
I felt worthless and unworthy of love, so in return I placed little value on my life or on the life of anyone else. All of these feelings combined, made feel so powerless in life, I lashed out. My lashing out cost another human his life. I am ashamed to admit it, but at the time I felt a great weight was lifted off my shoulders when I pulled the trigger. I felt like I had finally stood up for myself. I was completely irrational. … Now I feel sadness over murdering someone. I feel I have robbed my victim’s family of the most precious thing in life.
Now, you’re probably wondering how, as an inmate incarcerated for murder, Winfrey was able to log onto the Internet — a privilege not afforded to prisoners. He uses Quora through The Last Mile, a startup accelerator program that trains San Quentin inmates in the hopes of placing them in technology jobs following their release. Allowing inmates to communicate through Quora — facilitated through approved volunteers — is one component of The Last Mile.
Select inmates like Winfrey answer questions mostly related to prison — for example, “Do emotions like empathy, love, and compassion exist in prisons?” — but can also participate in discussions in other categories — “If you could live to 150 years old, would you want to?”
Insight from people like Winfrey, who wouldn’t ordinarily have access to a site like Quora, can help inquiring minds receive more direct and meaningful answers to their questions. Now, if only we could find someone to answer the rest of Quora’s burning, unanswered questions, like this one.