Paul Mortimer, left, with his friend Sean Fox at the Oregon State Penitentiary.
Prisoners at the Oregon State Penitentiary, the state's maximum-security prison, pass the time with stories. They liven up a dreary grind — and offer plenty of contemplation.
For inmates Paul Mortimer and Shawn Fox, recalling stories of their lives allows them to remember their identities outside the prison's walls. It also helps them believe in the future.
"I will get back out," Mortimer said in an interview he recorded with Fox at the penitentiary in October 2005. Mortimer had been incarcerated since 1985, when he was found guilty of robbery.
But less than a month after their conversation, Paul Mortimer was found dead in his cell. The cause of death, according to his wife, was a drug overdose. He was 49.
StoryCorps mobile booths are currently in Los Angeles, Calif., and Sarasota, Fla. An excerpt from the StoryCorps oral history project is heard each Friday on Morning Edition.