Friday, April 16, 2004

Could We Do This to Marty Beckerman? 

Lamb: Inmate Writing Erased
Prison officials destroyed computer files containing inmates' personal writing days after a prisoner won a national writing award, best-selling author Wally Lamb said.

Lamb, who teaches a creative writing workshop at the York Correctional Facility in East Lyme, said Wednesday that 15 women inmates lost up to five years of work when officials at the prison's school ordered all hard drives used for the class erased and its computer disks turned over.
Department of Correction Commissioner Theresa Lantz halted the writing program March 29 after learning that inmate Barbara Parsons Lane had won a $25,000 PEN American Center prize for her work on the 2003 book "Couldn't Keep It To Myself: Testimonies from our Imprisoned Sisters."

It's about time they cracked down on those damn rehabilitory prison programs. I hear Theresa Lantz really did it because of the devastating review Lane gave Lantz's fictionalized memoir in The New Republic. Called it "self-aggrandizing pabulum" (and took some shots at Elizabeth Wurtzel, for some reason).

The truth, as usual, is simply too depressing:
In January of 2003, just days before Couldn't Keep It To Myself was due to be released, the Connecticut Attorney General's office began summoning the book's contributors to appear before Superior Court. It was only then that the writers - both those still incarcerated and those who had served their sentences and been released - learned they were being billed, at the rate of approximately $117.00 per day, for the cost of their imprisonment. Because none of the women had written directly about their crimes, this was not a case of a state trying to apply so-called "Son of Sam" laws; rather, the Attorney General argued it was seeking the monies under Connecticut's vaguely-worded and rarely-applied "Cost of Incarceration" laws on the theory that the state sponsored the writing workshop. The State of Connecticut also sued Harper Collins Publishers for having reserved royalties of approximately $5,600 for each of the women. As one of the longest-serving inmates in the group, Lane received a demand for $339,505.00.
Nearly a year after they were initiated, the State of Connecticut's lawsuits against the women and Harper Collins are still pending. Last June, PEN wrote to the Connecticut Attorney General to protest the state's effort to recover the women's share of the book proceeds, noting that although the law presumably permits the state to attempt to recover the cost of incarceration from any inmate who earns any income whatsoever, it has been applied extremely selectively: of tens of thousands of men and women who have served terms in Connecticut since the law went into effect, only 15 have been the subject of cost-of-incarceration actions - 7 who were targeted following significant financial windfalls, and 8 of the women whose writings appear in Couldn't Keep It To Myself.

Bravo, Connecticut. Way to validate my destructive, useless cynicism.

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?Weblog Commenting and Trackback by HaloScan.com