CASPER – Two years ago, Jon Guy was in prison, serving 17 years for a 2004 stabbing in Laramie.
On Friday, he was heading to a book signing for his first book, published this week.
The book, “Think Straight,” is a self-proclaimed “owner’s manual for the mind,” says Guy. Part science, part philosophy, it’s full of detailed debunking of misconceptions and guidelines for combating them.
Writing the book became “a kind of solace” for Guy while in the Wyoming prisons, a way to expand and exercise his mind.
“It was stimulating,” he said, “in an environment that is otherwise antithetical to stimuli.”
Most of the book was researched and written at Wyoming prisons in Torrington and Newcastle, Guy said. He estimates that he read nearly 300 books and thousands of articles while working on the project behind bars. Once he finished the books, he donated them to the prison library.
“I had a small team of people, college professors and my family and friends, and I would send them letters and say, ‘I need this, this and this,'” Guy said. “They would send me these packages in the mail and I would spend hours and hours reading these things.”
He was inspired to undertake the project after listening to lectures by university professors in prison. One he saw in Newcastle, which addressed the “tricky mind”, made Guy interested in developing his own critical thinking curriculum that the average prisoner would understand.
At first, Guy estimated it would take about six months to write a package that could guide inmate-led critical thinking groups.
But then he started and learned how many things he didn’t know. In all, it took about two years to research, write and edit the book, submitting it to a publisher about two months after its publication in 2021. The finished project is about 400 pages.
“I have to admit that I failed completely at what I set out to do,” he laughed. “It literally took up all my time, probably for about three years. If I wasn’t working, I was reading or writing.”
In 2004, Guy stabbed a man. He used a small pocket knife and cut the man in the lower back. Doctors said, according to court documents, that the stab wound affected the man’s liver. The man apparently didn’t know he’d been stabbed at the time, until friends eventually saw he was bleeding.
It came after a night of drinking in Laramie, when Guy says he and a friend got into an argument with a group of men after leaving a bar. He was arrested a few hours later, then charged with attempted second-degree murder.
She had only been in Wyoming for two weeks, having moved with her dog from California in search of work and a lower cost of living. He was hired at a local Albertson’s before the stabbing, but never started.
After a jury found Guy guilty, he was sentenced to between 30 and 45 years in prison. I was 20 years old.
He ended up serving 17 years, thanks to a reduced sentence and good time credits.
Prison administrators intercepted a few scientific papers sent to Guy from outside, he said, but he fought the decision and got the papers back through an internal appeals process.
Guy finished his time at the Casper Reentry Center in November. He now lives in Cheyenne and works in Colorado for a natural gas company.
The book is not about him, Guy said. But the skepticism and critical thinking that has inspired him comes from his experiences.
“It’s full of examples,” he said, “from ghosts and aliens to GMOs and vaccines. It runs the gamut.”
Several teachers, including those who helped and advised Guy during the writing process, now plan to use “Think Straight” in their classrooms. He has appeared on podcasts about skepticism and biotechnology, and will have the book reviewed in magazines such as Psychology Today, The Skeptic, and Skeptical Inquirer. Now that “Think Straight” is published, Guy is working on a chapter for a clinical psychology textbook that will appear alongside the Titans in the Field chapters.
He would still love to see “Think Straight” end up in prisons. Guy said he contacted the Wyoming Department of Corrections and was told that each facility would have to decide whether to spend money from their budgets to stock prison libraries.
“I think it would be a good example of how you can completely change your life and your thinking,” Guy said. “It can be done.”