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A New Leash on Life
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The inmate-impact results are tempered by the fact that the selection process focuses on inmates with good behavior and a high level of motivation and maturity. Recent studies, such as one conducted by the Correctional Education System, indicate that simply participating in any educational program “reduces the likelihood of re-incarceration by 29 percent.”

Elaine Lord, superintendent at Bedford Hills Correctional in up-state New York, one of the PBB prisons, couldn’t agree more. “An inmate who participates meaningfully in a program does better. It doesn’t matter what the program is.”

Back at Thompson Hall, several inmates whose work duties were cancelled spend the time alone reading or watching TV. Lisa takes her dog Perkins out for a quick run in the adjacent exercise yard, which is also used by the rest of the prison’s 90 inmates for exercise; inside the fence topped with barbed wire is a volleyball net and picnic table. The dogs can run here, and, in one corner, do their business. Lisa throws an oversized baseball for Perkins, who chases it with abandon. She jumps on the ball as if attacking prey and then wiggles her butt, which makes Lisa laugh out loud. Several inmates peek out their first-floor room windows, faces pressed against the glass, watching and smiling. When Perkins brings the ball, Lisa bends down and asks for kisses. Perkins stretches up and licks her face excitedly. In a few months, Perkins will leave Lisa and move onto professional training and later, will give a person with a disability some much-needed independence. Lisa, mother of three who has been at York for a decade, will be up for parole again soon. She just might get her independence, too.
 

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This article first appeared in The Bark,
Issue 23: Summer 2003
Fern Glazer writes about arts, culture, and lifestyle for publications such Time Out New York, Museums Magazines, and The Philadelphia Inquirer. She lives in Brooklyn, NY. fernglazer.com
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