Monday, January 16, 2012

No Guarantees

A good friend of mine, Sara Bennett, has been doing pro bono legal work for the past two years to free a woman named Judith Clark from prison.  

You can read a recent NYTimes article about Judith Clark here.  What struck me about her story was that for the past 27 years Judy Clark has been educating herself in prison and transforming herself into a truly rehabilitated person.

Judy has earned multiple degrees while in prison.  She has taught parenting classes for pregnant women, she has been a mentor and role model to young mothers.  She has founded programs educating people on the impact of AIDS.  She has helped rebuild a prison college program that has helped over 150 women gain degrees.  She is an advisor to students in prison.  She has volunteered with guide dogs for the blind.  She has written poetry.  She has studied and become certified as a Chaplain.  And she has maintained a consistent and loving relationship with her now 31-year old daughter.  You can read about all of her accomplishments here.

Wow, how many of us living outside of prison have a resume that impressive?

This made me think of education.  I used to tell my boys that education gives you choices in life.  The more education you have, the more choices you will have in life.  I'm not sure I agree with this anymore.  Instead, I feel that the more education you have, the more confidence you have.  And, with more confidence you may be likely to have more opportunities in life and possibly more choices.

I look at someone like Judith Clark.  I would hope that her education while in prison would afford her more choices and ultimately freedom.  I don't think she expects freedom and has probably resolved herself to a life of prison.  So, if not freedom, then what good is her education doing her in prison?

I don't know her and I'm only speculating, but I'm guessing her education while in prison has brought her many things.  It may have given her confidence to teach others in prison.  It may have brought her to feel remorse for her actions which landed her in prison.  It may be giving her a new perspective on life.  It may have helped her establish a good relationship with her daughter throughout her imprisoned years.  It may be bringing her peace of mind in certain situations.  Her education has certainly touched many lives in a positive way.

I hope that someday Judith can say by educating herself while in prison, she became a better person, one worthy of serving her community and living free.  I feel she has proven herself.  But, her clemency is not up to me.  There are no guarantees she will be freed.

I'm posting this on Martin Luther King day.  A day that celebrates freedom.  I'm sending this woman (I've never met) all my good intentions and hoping that because she has proven herself to be a remarkable human being while imprisoned for 30 years, she will some day live free.

If you feel inclined to try to help Judy's case, here are three suggestions:

It's really important that the Times get hundreds of positive letters in response to the piece. I can't emphasize this enough. So please take a few minutes to send in a letter.  Don't fret about what to write. It's unlikely that the Times will publish more than a few letters; what's important is that it receive hundreds. Of course, if you want to take the time to write a letter that has a chance of being published, even better!

2. Post a comment to the article online. <>

3. If you know people who haven't written a letter to the Governor, please ask them to do so now. Take a look at the website for details: <>


  1. I was moved by your compassionate, thoughtful and well-written essay, so fitting for Martin Luther King Day. Thank you.

  2. Indeed thanks for providing necessary information. I really appreciate to u,all are such a good information.Thanks................

  3. I loved you post because if I hadn't read 'Bolesno Grinje', I would have been misled. You are so right in all the points you raised. staggered was cruelty masqueraded as tradition.