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THE FARM by Andi Rierden


Life Inside a Women's Prison

by Andi Rierden

Pub Date: June 1st, 1997
ISBN: 1-55849-079-5

A sober, intelligent study of the changing dynamics of a womens prison. The Connecticut Correctional Institute in Niantic, nicknamed ``The Farm'' by its inmates, has a long and honorable tradition. Its prisoners historically grew their own vegetables and cared for farm animals; the prison is located in a lovely rural spot. Rierden (Journalism/Fairfield Univ.) studied the inmates from 1992 to 1995, as the prison population began to shift from one-time offenders to serious repeat offenders, some with AIDS, many with serious drug problems. Rierden's narrative focuses on several older inmates, including Delia Robinson, a matronly woman with a violent streak triggered by alcohol. Robinson had spent long stretches in Niantic, the first when she killed another woman, the second after she killed her abusive son. It takes Robinson years to admit her alcoholism and her responsibility for her sons depraved, short life. Its to Rierdens credit that the reader understands why the other inmates revere the woman they call Miss D; her slow emergence from the prison system takes on heroic proportions. Other inmates are of more questionable character; unlike Delia, Bonnie Foreshaw vehemently denies she murdered a pregnant woman and blames race bias for a conviction in what she insists was an accidental shooting. Rierden reports without comment Bonnie's exculpatory account along with those of several eyewitnesses, who tell a far different story. Niantic is, as Rierden reports, the object of much interest, both as a model for the old-style system of reforming prisoners and as a relic in a new era showing much less interest in rehabilitation. Bucking that trend, largely through the efforts of longtime guards and a thoughtful warden, a drug rehabilitation center has been established, and the prison itself has been restored to much of its old glory as a farm for damaged people. An intelligent, absorbing look at prison reform and, more particularly, at the issue of women in prison.