Prison follow-up

Speaking out

From the AP: 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. (Read the whole story here.)

Not my usual subject matter, I recognize. But my Jewishness impels me to a social conscience, and the capricious meanness of the prison officials' actions infuriates me.

I hope to teach in a prison someday. asha bandele's The Prisoner's Wife gave me a sense of what inmates and their families face; Mark Salzman's True Notebooks gave me a glimpse into what an inmate writing workshop can mean to its participants.

asha's and Mark's books moved me deeply; and my nonprofit Inkberry was founded on the principle that telling one's own story can be transformative. Surely that is as true for prison inmates as for those of us outside -- in fact, one could argue that prison inmates need the transformative power of language even more than the rest of us do, because words can give their minds and hearts freedom that their bodies can't access.

The prison officials should be ashamed of themselves for responding to the news of Lane's award by closing the workshop down -- and destroying the words of these prisoners' mouths and the meditations of their hearts was an act of needless violence. It's an outrage, perpetrated against the largely-voiceless, removing what little voice they thought they had.

If you're half as angry as I am, consider emailing the Connecticut Department of Corrections at [email protected] and telling them just how unconscionable this abridgement of rights is.