Click on the links in each piece to read more about the people, news, and events featured here.
Ex-New York gang leader Louis Ferrante shares how literature changed his life
An article posted by the British news site Rochdale Online reviews New York gang leader-turned-author Louis Ferrante’s visit to a local literacy celebration event. Ferrante, a former member of the Gambino crime family and perpetrator of many high stakes robberies, served 8 1/2 years in maximum security prisons for refusing to cooperate with the family’s associates. He read his first book while in prison–a step that started Ferrante down the path of reading and writing frequently. Ferrante later went on to write a book himself, Unlocked: A Journey from Prison to Proust, published in March 2008.
In the Rochdale article, Ferrante speaks about the transformation he underwent while reading literature in prison:
“I realised that I had a choice to make. I could choose to be different and lead a law abiding life if I truly wanted to. The day I decided to be different was the day my whole life changed. When I started to read, I realised that I could escape beyond the prison walls. I read about people who had made something of themselves and I started to believe that is was not too late for me. From reading a book I began to think I could write a book, and so that’s what I did.”
Hamilton College’s English Department discusses its fall course in prison literature
In a press release issued on December 23, Hamilton College student Nora Grenfell discusses a recent English Department course on prisoner-authored literature entitled “Booked: Prison Writing.” The course’s instructor, Associate Professor Doran Larson, previously led a creative writing workshop for inmates at the infamous Attica Correctional Facility in New York. He proposed the Fall 2008 course as a means of introducing students to the human side of prison life, using both carefully selected readings and a mandatory visit to the Attica prison. The course description reads as follows:
Prisons have been the settings for scenes of tragedy, comedy, romance and social protest. While aware of this use of the prison as a literary device, we will read writers who have actually suffered incarceration. We will read canonical texts (by Plato, Boethius, King), post-colonial prison writers (Abani, Thiong’o), and the work of men and women inside the American prison system. Among other requirements, students will read work by and visit men in a writing class taught inside Attica Correctional Facility.
Morris County, NJ judge sentences two offenders to read Abby Mann’s Judgement at Nuremberg
On December 13, Peggy Wright from the Morris County Daily Record reported on Superior Court Judge Thomas V. Manahan’s unconventional sentencing decision for two men charged with running a marijuana harvesting operation in their attic. After hearing the two 24-year olds claim that they were only going along with the plan of a third roommate, Manahan sentenced them to read Abby Mann’s 1957 play Judgement at Nuremberg (later adapted to the big screen), in which war criminals claimed to have been following orders. The men are to read the play and write a reflective essay within 60 days. In addition to this surprise sentence, the offenders must pay fines of more than $1,200, spend four years on probation, complete 250 hours of community service, and 90 days in the Sheriff’s Labor Assistance Program.
- Florida Department of Corrections employee Gary B. King shares his thoughts on rehabilitating inmates with the readers of the Tallahassee Democrat. Click here to read.
- Titusville, Florida based program The Prison Book Project faces possible warehouse demolition. Follow this link to read more.
Is there anything you’ve spotted this month that you think should be included here? Share the information in the comments section below.
Want to respond to any of these news items or have other thoughts you’d like to discuss with our readers? Send us your idea for a guest blog at firstname.lastname@example.org !