|About the Book|
My Life With LifersLessons For A Teacher:Humanity Has No BarsI have always been drawn to darkness, Elaine Leeder writes. I know I always championed the underdog.As a sociology professor at Ithaca College in the 1990s, she began teaching at ElmiraMoreMy Life With LifersLessons For A Teacher:Humanity Has No BarsI have always been drawn to darkness, Elaine Leeder writes. I know I always championed the underdog.As a sociology professor at Ithaca College in the 1990s, she began teaching at Elmira Correctional Facility in upstate New York. When she moved to California, that same desire to help led her to the prison education program at San Quentin. Then, inspired by her lessons, a group of Leeders students approached her about working with a program the prisoners had established to aid in their long and difficult process of redemption and transformation. She accepted.These members of New Leaf on Life—the San Quentin “lifers”—have been sentenced to terms ranging from fifteen years to life in prison. Unlike Death Row inmates, who will either die in prison or be executed, many of the lifers are eligible for parole after having spent twenty to thirty years behind bars. But too often, they never see that opportunity because of the popular view that they are all hardened criminals, killers incapable of rehabilitation and unfit to be free.What Leeder has learned, however, is that incarceration does not dictate character. Her students, although they are convicts, are committed to making their time in jail a life sentence in the best sense, not a death sentence. They have gone the extra mile to come to terms with their crimes, and have often managed to redeem their lives.My Life With Lifers shares the journey of a woman on the outside as she discovered the true nature of life in prison, and the roadblocks—so many of them unneeded—on the inmates’ path to freedom. What Leeders experiences add up to is both a fascinating human story and a reasoned and impassioned case for prison reform.