April 23, 1999

Author Jean Harris to Speak about "Women and the Prison System" on April 29 at Middlebury College

Author Jean Harris will speak about "Women and the Prison System" on Thursday, April 29 at 8 p.m. at the Middlebury College Kirk Alumni Center on Route 30. The lecture is free and open to the public.

In her 1986 book "Stranger in Two Worlds," Harris earns the attention and concern of the reader by telling her own story--she was convicted of the murder of diet-book author Dr. Herman Tarnower. Using the notoriety of the case as a hook to draw the reader in, she then reveals her true topic-women in prison. She makes the point that those who could do something about the plight of women in prison, and their children, have no idea what it is like to be there. Twelve years later Harris is still deeply involved in educating people about the realities of incarceration for women with children, and will speak about this topic during her lecture.

While imprisoned at Bedford Hills Correctional Facility, Harris founded the Children of Bedford Fund to help children--whose mothers are incarcerated at the facility--to get a good education. As president of the fund, she travels widely educating people about the tremendous upheaval a jailed mother brings into the life of her children.

Harris points out, "It is not just coincidence that most people in jail and prison are poorly educated. Fewer than half of incarcerated people have a high school diploma, and many who do have one have been pushed from grade to grade without any consideration of what they have learned or what they are ready for. Some so-called high school graduates can barely read. The cycle of ignorance feeds on itself and goes round and round."

The Addison County Community Review Board and the May Belle Chellis Women's Resource Center at Middlebury College are sponsoring Harris' talk. Contact Mary S. Duffy, of the women's studies department at Middlebury College, at 802-443-5937 for more information.