Life on the Outside by Jennifer Gonnerman Buy book: $10.63
A groundbreaking work of reportage on the hidden consequences of America's prison boom, "Life On the Outside" tells the story of Elaine Bartlett, who spent 16 years in Bedford Hills prison for selling cocaine--a first offense under New York's harsh Rockefeller drug laws.
I think this book is very appropriate to tell the true story of a woman's plight, her mistake that got her a prison term, and the horrible feeling she must have had to leave her 4 children behind.
Now I am not condoning this woman's mistake in getting into the drug scene and selling some cocaine. No, surely not. I have not read enough of the book to know if her prison stay benefited her in the sense that she will definitely stay away from drugs. I am going to get the book from my library and finish it.
I will try to keep an open mind. I know that none of us are perfect and everybody makes mistakes. I just hope that this book isn't trying to justify the choices that some people make. It is very unfortunate that people come out of prison unprepared for "real" life. It is more unfortunate that anybody, especially a young mother, sells drugs or breaks the law in any other way.
I am unable to judge the forces that come to bear in some parts of our society, but reading books such as this one help me to understand and perhaps empathize with what motivates some people and gets them into trouble with the law. It`s as close as I can get to walking a mile in their moccasins.
Just now read an excerpt from this book on my library's website - yes, it sounds like she is living in an environment of less than desirable conditions - and her route there I don't know so cannot judge - but as her boyfriend tells her over the weekend before her "simple plan" of carrying a bag of cocaine on a 2 1/2 hr. train ride to deliver for a fee of $2500 "just don't make sense" - she should have listened to him -
I would assume she knew along with everyone else that cocaine is illegal - and possession of it is putting yourself in a legally dangerous position - of course, she, as so many, probably never thought of getting caught -
I do really sympathize with those who live in deplorable conditions and the children do have the worst of it - but from just what I have read, she did not sound in dire need of the money - that's the sad part to me - and it was her first offense but a very bad decision at best - she may have had to pay the high price that worse people should have paid - I don't know -
This is a difficult read for me. I have a husband in prison and until you've walked the walk dont try to judge. It is the hardest thing I have ever done and ZI believe as a family member who has never done a crime punishable by prison, I'm in my own prison 365 days a year. Talk to family members and see how they suffer too. We are also treated like second class citizens because we have a loved one in prison. I know that crimes are committed and people need to pay but at what expense.
And please before you go down my throat about poor innocent victims yes I know about them too.
Im not saying that people shouldn't be punished but most prison systems now are their own little business community and of course the inmate works for wages less than those of immigrants.
ok I'm off my soapbox but i just say please keep and open mind and remeber but for the grace of God go you and I.
This is my first week as a member of this book club. So far I am really enjoying the excerpts from "Life on the Outside".
In today's segment, Jennifer Gonnerman does a great job of describing the setting and the activities during a normal day in a shop along 125th Street in Harlem in 1983. What a difficult environment for a single parent to raise four children.
Am planning to get the book from my library - it is a most interesting read and will hopefully learn more about the NY severe penalty law that went into effect about the time she was sentenced -
I know our justice system sometimes does not seem to make sense - murderers may get off with a lesser sentence than someone whose crime seems to be less - but our drug situation is indeed out of control and so detrimental to those who are the users and/or dealers - and we all know drugs can lead to violence, etc. -
Enough said - this promises to be a most informative and educational book from a personal and legal point of view -
I was very busy last week so didn't get to read the posts until this week. I was sucked in and went to the library at lunch to take the book out. I'm very interested in seeing what brought Elaine to this point and seeing how/if she is able to recover. Hope someone else is reading it too and continues to post thoughts/comments.