Book Review: Razor Wire Dharma

“Razor Wire Dharma” written by Calvin Malone
Published 2008 by Wisdom Publications

“When we take the time to know people around us, it becomes easier to extend compassion and loving-kindness to them. Those who are in prison and seem different are simply people who need the same kindness everyone else is seeking. No matter what they did, who they are, what they look like, or how they act, like all of us, they want to be happy.”

When you think of a prisoner, what vision does this bring about in your mind? Many people envision a “hardened criminal”, someone who “should be locked behind bars, and have the keys tossed away”. They may also think this same person cannot change, and will not change. This book is a perfect “wake up call” for those with unsafe assumptions, especially to the one’s that believe prison is the be all end all for a “criminal”.

Calvin Malone has risen so high above the prison system, I’m surprised he’s not been tried for escaping, because he is truly free. This book is a testament to his freedom. With wit and candor like that of and old Zen Master, Calvin not only awakens to his inner Buddha but helps other to realize their potential as well. Regardless of color, sex or the charge that got them in prison, Calvin compassionately approaches each person he encounters like an old friend.

It takes alot for a man in prison to do such great work. There are tests of a persons faith around every corner. From cellmates who steal from you, a person down the tier who hates you because of the color of your skin or someone across the mess hall who’s staring you down for no reason other than the fact they are angry at the world. Calvin approaches each situation in a similar manner, with loving-kindness he tries to get to the heart of the issues facing him, regardless of what may or may not happen. He knows in his heart he is doing the right thing by trying his best to diffuse the predicament at hand, not only for himself, but for all involved.

Calvin’s approach to telling his own story pulls no punches, and speaks in a way that demystifies what some might call “the smoke and mirrors” of Buddhism. His story is a practical approach, one that even someone facing the worst possible conditions can do and understand. And that is to love and care for each human being as you would yourself. To look at each and everyday as a gift and to treat it as such. One of my favorite chapters is the one titled “Apple” in which he talks about a really bad day, and when he hits the mess hall line he is given an apple. “Breathing in I smelled the apple, breathing out the universe. Everything there is or ever was was contained in this apple.” The clarity this man sees with is absolutely amazing and should serve as a reminder to us all, that we can change and put behind us all the excess crap we carry and just be, for this moment.

I’ve read many Dharma books, and have come away with knowledge and wisdom from each one. I felt like this one really stood out for me. Calvin Malone’s bravery, grace and selflessness is so inspiring I could not help but smile as I flipped each page. If I were to recommend one book that stands out from the endless sea of Dharma books, one that will not only make you smile but will also tug a bit at your heart strings, than I would tell you to read “Razor Wire Dharma”.


  1. Calvin Malone is due out of jail in October of 2009. Is there any word on the exact date of his early release or if he is out already. Also, I can we contact him?

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