CASPER — Two years ago, Jon Guy was in prison, serving 17 years for a 2004 stabbing in Laramie.
On Friday, he was headed to a signing for his first book, released this week.
The book, “Think Straight,” is a self-proclaimed “owner’s manual for the mind,” Guy says. Part science, part philosophy, it’s crammed with detailed debunkings of common misconceptions and guidelines for combating them.
Writing the book became “a type of solace” for Guy while in Wyoming prisons — a way to expand and exercise his mind.
“It was stimulating,” he said, “in an environment that’s otherwise antithetical to stimuli.”
Most of the book was researched and written in Wyoming prisons in Torrington and Newcastle, Guy said. He estimates he read nearly 300 books, and thousands of articles, while behind bars working on the project. 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, I would send letters to and say, 'I need this, this and this,'” Guy said. “They would mail me these packets, and I would spend hours and hours reading this stuff.”
He was inspired to undertake the project after listening to lectures from college professors in prison. One he saw in Newcastle, which addressed the “deceptive mind,” got Guy interested in putting together his own critical thinking curriculum that the average prisoner would understand.
At first, Guy estimated it would take about six months to write a packet that could guide inmate-led critical thinking groups.
But then he got started, and learned how much he didn’t know. In all, it took him about two years to research, write and edit the book, submitting it to a publisher about two months after his release in 2021. The finished project is around 400 pages.
“I have to admit, I completely failed in what I set out to do,” he laughed. “It took literally all of my time, for probably about three years. If I wasn’t working, I was either reading or writing.”
In 2004, Guy stabbed a man. He used a small pocket knife and cut the man in his lower back. Doctors said, according to court documents, that the stab wound hit the man’s liver. The man apparently did not know he was 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.
He had only been in Wyoming for two weeks, after moving with his dog from California in search of a job and lower cost of living. He was hired at a local Albertson’s before the stabbing, but never got to start.
After a jury found Guy guilty, he was sentenced to 30 to 45 years in prison. He was 20 years old.
He ended up serving 17 years, thanks to a sentence reduction and some good time credits.
Prison administrators intercepted a few scientific papers sent to Guy from the outside, he said, but he fought the decision and won the papers back through an internal grievance process.
Guy finished out his time at the Casper Reentry Center in November. Now, he’s living in Cheyenne and working in Colorado for a natural gas company.
The book isn’t about him, Guy said. But the skepticism and critical thinking that inspired it comes from his experiences.
“It’s chock full of examples,” he said, “from ghosts and aliens to GMOs and vaccines. It runs the gamut.”
Several professors, including ones that helped and advised Guy during the writing process, now plan to use “Think Straight” in their classrooms. He’s appeared on podcasts about skepticism and biotech, and will have the book reviewed in magazines including 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 chapters by titans in the field.
He’d still love to see “Think Straight” end up in prisons. Guy said he reached out to the Wyoming Department of Corrections, and was told that each facility would have to decide whether to spend money from their budgets to stock it in 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.”