They're Already Here

Swanny has some serious directives when it comes to his role as a jail-reform clown--directives based on compassion.

"I would try to have a more personal contact with the inmates, in the sense that we're all people in this world together. Some have taken misguided routes, they've done wrong, yes, and I don't think we need to treat them really well, but the point is we certainly have to be humane. And I think there's a possibility we've gone over the line."

But Swanny knows well that philosophizing only goes so far; he's all for hands-on action.

"I would try and make 'em laugh," he says of the inmates. "Maybe make a couple balloon animals and give 'em to 'em, ask them about their kids or whatever. I have several hand puppets I use; they interplay and talk with the people I deal with. I've got a koala bear and a skunk and a raccoon."

Of course, it might take more than a twisted balloon, a painted face or a talking koala bear, skunk or raccoon to right the wrongs of the Valley political and prison system. But, as the clowns have said, perhaps an old-fashioned thing like a hug or a laugh from a person with a huge wig and a garishly painted face might make a little difference. Maybe what the clowns are telling us is something our politicians have forgotten: "Hey--drop your troubles, drop your cares, drop your problems. Just don't drop your smile."

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