BREAKING THE WALLS OF SILENCE by ACE/Bedford Hills Correctional Facility


AIDS and Women in a New York State Maximum Security Prison
Email this review


A compelling record of how women incarcerated in a maximum-security prison developed a widely applicable model AIDS program. AIDS is the leading cause of death in New York State prisons, and among those entering prison, HIV infection is present in twice as many women as men. The ACE program (ACE stands for AIDS Counseling and Education) was begun by a group of women inmates in Bedford Hills prison, who in 1988 saw the need to reach out to those among them already suffering with AIDS and to educate the entire Bedford Hills population about the disease. They tell their story here. Creating such a program within the restrictions and bureaucracy of a prison was not easy, but aided by a $250,000 grant from the AIDS Institute, which funded an outside community agency to work with the women, the program gradually took shape. ACE developed workshops and seminars, provided counseling, and held memorial services inside Bedford Hills. The original manual was expanded for use by other prisons and then later into its present form, which is both manual (Part II) and history of ACE (Part I). What makes ACE’s story powerful is not the facts of its history, but the voices of the women recounting that story and at the same time telling their own stories. Not all have AIDS, but all are affected by it, and the pain of prison life, even absent AIDS, is made abundantly clear. The manual itself describes the various teaching methods used and, for each of the nine workshops, outlines the goals and curriculum content. Topics include the stigma of AIDS, transmission, testing, treatment, and how it impacts women as caregivers and mothers. The volume includes a preface by Whoopi Goldberg. A valuable handbook for any group, in or outside prison, involved in AIDS education, but even more, a testament to the humanity of a group of dedicated women. (35 b&w illustrations)

Pub Date: Sept. 1st, 1998
ISBN: 0-87951-500-7
Page count: 448pp
Publisher: Overlook
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15th, 1998