Check out this Mother Jones review by Debra J. Dickerson of Jennifer Gonnerman’s book, Life on the Outside: The Prison Odyssey of Elaine Bartlett (Thanks to David for the tip).
Because of New York’s Rockefeller drug laws, Elaine’s childish irresponsibility cost her 20 to life, Nathan’s defeatist chivalry a minimum 25. These two self-destructive fools were treated like drug kingpins, yet they couldn’t even afford lawyers. (Meanwhile, George Deets, the insatiable addict whose drug ring was responsible for a biweekly kilo of cocaine on New York’s streets, remained not only free but well paid by the police and with his inventory restocked.)
Sixteen years later, as a result of ever-increasing calls to overturn mandatory minimums for low-level offenders, Bartlett experiences the only stroke of luck in her benighted life: She receives clemency from Governor George Pataki, leaves Bedford Hills prison, and returns home to New York City as a poster child for sentencing reform.
It’s all downhill from there. Gonnerman wryly subtitled this book about life after long-term incarceration a “prison odyssey” because, as Bartlett soon realizes, she’s simply “left one prison to come home to another.” One in the flood of 600,000 prisoners released each year from our 30-year incarceration boom, Bartlett returns to an overcrowded, filthy project apartment and the four children who have grown up in her absence.