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My quotes for Friday's class

Anne Dalke's picture

1) By now, Elaine was thirty-five years old, older than most of the other inmates. Angry young women reminded her of herself in her first years here. Often, she pulled them aside and dispensed advice, urging them to get a job and go to school....Most of the time, though, she just listened to them talk about whatever was bothering them....

Bedford Hills was full of such makeshift families, where one strong woman played the role of matriarch and cared for a few younger prisoners. At any given time, there were at least 10 prisoners whom Elaine considered her "kids"....

Her children were scared of her, and they almost always did what she said....For young women with no parents, a strong maternal figure was exactly what they wanted. "We knew she loved us, Tarsha Thompson,one of her children, recalls. "It was nice to be loved. That's something we were all lacking"....

Just like her own mother, who had always prepared enough food for their whole building, Elaine made sure nobody was left out (p. 103).

2) In Elaine's opinion, clemency was a cruel and unfair game. She saw it as part of the governor's political dance, a way for him to show concern about the injustices of the laws without actually changing them. She did not think the governor should give anyone clemency; instead, he should just repeal the laws (p. 149).

3) One she got to Apartment 13B and glanced inside, she understood. Pieces of a kitchen table leaned against one wall, held together by duct tape. Broken chairs spread across a grimy linoleum flor. The ceiling, once white, was now filthy gray, stained by smoke. To the left, a tattered sheet hung in the doorway to the living room, a sorry substitute for a door.

All those years she'd been away, she had never even considered the possiblity that she might be living in better conditions in prison than her children were in the free world.

"Oh my God," Elaine said loudly enough for everyone to hear. She whirled around. "Turn that camera off! Do not show that on TV!" (p. 163).

4) "What is prison really about? You talk about rehabilitation. Rehabilitation comes from within the individual, because there is no rehabilitation in prison. We're looked at as a number. For sixteen years, I was looked at as 84-G-0068. That's not who I am, and that's not who I plan to be...."

These rallies had enabled her to reinvent herself in a way that made her feel proud: Now she considered herself a political activist. All those years she'd spent in prison, reading and rereading her trial transcript, fuming about George Deets, her crime had seemed like the ultimate tragedy. But now she no longer felt as if her years behind bars had been a total waste. By giving speeches at events like this one, she had transformed the story of her crime and punishment into a political tool, one that she could now use to help others win their freedom.

These rallies were a necessary form of therapy for Elaine, a way to release her rage without using her fists. They were also about revenge. These anti-drug law events--and the media coverage they sparked--were her way to strike back @ everyone: Judge Clyne, George Deets, the state police, the guard who had shown her disrespect, the prison admistrators who had underestimated her (pp. 262-263).