Case: State of Connecticut v. Jessamy

03-cv-822418 | Connecticut state trial court

Filed Date: 2003

Closed Date: 2005

Clearinghouse coding complete

Case Summary

In 2003, the Attorney General of the State of Connecticut filed suit in state court against a group of eight current and former female inmates of the maximum-security York Correctional Institution in Niantic, Connecticut, seeking to recover the cost of their incarceration. The women had participated in a prison writing workshop, and with the help of their teacher and bestselling novelist Wally Lamb, published a collection of essays titled "Couldn't Keep It To Myself: Testimonies From Our Impri…

In 2003, the Attorney General of the State of Connecticut filed suit in state court against a group of eight current and former female inmates of the maximum-security York Correctional Institution in Niantic, Connecticut, seeking to recover the cost of their incarceration. The women had participated in a prison writing workshop, and with the help of their teacher and bestselling novelist Wally Lamb, published a collection of essays titled "Couldn't Keep It To Myself: Testimonies From Our Imprisoned Sisters." The book was published by HarperCollins. The lawsuit was filed after state officials learned that the inmates received a portion of the sale proceeds.

For more than a year, the inmates' attorney, Wally Lamb, and lawyers for Harper Collins tried unsuccessfully to get the Attorney General to drop the suit or settle it. Eventually the literary organization PEN, which champions the causes of persecuted writers around the world, became involved. PEN awarded one of the still imprisoned plaintiffs a major award sponsored by A.E. Hotchner and Paul Newman, which was accompanied by a $25,000 prize. When prison officials found out about the award, they suspended the writing program, seized all computer discs and erased writing program materials from the hard drives of the prison's computers.

Reports with the CBS investigative news program 60 Minutes attempted to contact prison officials and the Attorney General about their seemingly retaliatory conduct. Under the apparent pressure from the news media, the Attorney General agreed to settle the lawsuit for payment of $500 by each of the eight women writers, for a total of $4,000. Under the settlement, $3,500 of the money was to go to the writing program at York Correctional Institute, which the state agreed to fully restore. The remaining $500 was to go to the state Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services.

Summary Authors

Dan Dalton (11/20/2007)

Documents in the Clearinghouse

Document

Press Release

No Court

April 19, 2004

April 19, 2004

Press Release

Resources

Docket

Last updated May 12, 2022, 8 p.m.

Docket sheet not available via the Clearinghouse.

Case Details

State / Territory: Connecticut

Case Type(s):

Prison Conditions

Key Dates

Filing Date: 2003

Closing Date: 2005

Case Ongoing: No

Plaintiffs

Plaintiff Description:

Attorney General, State of Connecticut

Plaintiff Type(s):

State Plaintiff

Public Interest Lawyer: No

Filed Pro Se: No

Class Action Sought: No

Class Action Outcome: Not sought

Defendants

Eight female prisoners, None

Case Details

Causes of Action:

State law

Availably Documents:

None of the above

Outcome

Prevailing Party: Mixed

Nature of Relief:

Damages

Source of Relief:

Settlement

Form of Settlement:

Private Settlement Agreement

Issues

Affected Gender:

Female

Type of Facility:

Government-run