Life In Prison

Published: 18 November 2019

Gabriel Sanchez’ article “Here’s What It’s Like For A Woman To Serve Life In Prison” (Buzzfeed, September 12, 2019, by Gabriel H. Sanchez) highlights the work of Sara Bennet’s “PhotovilleNYC”, who represented me in the early 90’s when I was applying for clemency. My first petition was sent when Governor Pataki was in office and then another one when Patterson took over, both denied my petitions. The women in this article, (many of whom I know) from my 39 years spent at the Bedford Hills Correctional Facility, the only maximum security prison for women in New York, are only sharing glimpses of hope they may have or the psychological place they were in during some point in their incarceration, highlighting what they may be feeling or have felt.I read many of the responses and just feel as though people really need to understand what our criminal justice system is really doing to women especially handing down these draconian sentences they impose on them. I have been in groups with many of them and can attest to the remorse they expressed time and time again. As a person who was incarcerated I will NEVER forget the victims of the crime nor the pain and heartache I have caused in their families and friends lives. I live with that shame and despair each and every day, free or bond and being constantly judged by that one criminal act that constitutes for me and many, the biggest mistake of our lives, is not helping to heal anyone. I just ask that we begin to educate ourselves and know that “But for the grace of God go I.” Look at the history of who is being locked up, look at where they come from, their backgrounds will tell you the whole story and also know that many people are being released who are innocent of any crimes but guilty of being poor and black or brown. What can we do as a society to change the criminal justice system that imprisons 15 year old children until they are senior citizens, that takes a mother who is protecting herself and her children from an abusive husband or partner and gives her 25 years to life, while her children are placed in foster care and she loses all parental rights of having any contact with them again, no phone calls or visits, a system that fabricates evidence and uses coercion to get a false confession. Now it is targeting immigrants and separating and imprisoning them and their children who are fleeing from horrific violence and abuse. Let’s ask what is wrong and how can we change it, instead of concentrating on what someone did. There is always a bigger story than the actual crime. Trauma and abuse runs rampant in our society and we really need to stop inflicting it on our most vulnerable people, our poor. “Ask not what your country can do for you – ask what you can do for your country.