Among Murderers: Prisoners Respond to Sabine Heinlein

Among Murderers cover imageSabine Heinlein sent a finished copy of her book, Among Murderers, to Richie, an interviewee serving time at Attica prison. He then passed it around to friends and fellow cellblock-mates. Two of them were so moved by her research on the struggle to navigate life after a murder conviction, they felt compelled to write responses to Heinlein.

Below are excerpts from their letters, which are honest, heartfelt, and at times, conflicted. Read the full letters on Sabine Heinlein’s blog.

 

Letter #1, from Jason Rodriguez, who is serving 37 years-to-life for murder:

I started questioning the true essence of remorse, rehabilitation, and the whole process of corrections; what society deems fit when they’re looking in from the outside at a bunch of papers, data. If it’s anything remotely close to the little girl who got scared at the Halloween party or the arbitrariness of the parole board, then certainly we are the worst thing we’ve ever done. If they’re like you, having the ability to empathize, then there is still hope. In this regard I share, and am grateful for, your sentiments on page 18, “each man’s story—his needs, desires, risks, failures and moral responsibilities—calls for a highly individualized approach.”

 

Letter #2, from a prisoner who has served 48 years of his 20-to-life murder sentence and wishes to remain anonymous:

I read until 1:30 AM, then finished your book this morning. It kept my interest. I was thrown off some by chapter 20, The New Home, which for me kind of broke the flow. But that was read at about 1 AM, I was tired and that may have contributed.

I found it very honest and real. Your handling of personality profiles was, as always, excellent. I think it will be an eye opener for those who have the misconception that parole is freedom. I’d like to see it as mandatory reading for all first offenders because they often think “parole is freedom” and are quickly, very negatively struck with profound disappointment when reality smacks or kicks them in the face.