Prison a 'sentence without hope' for Pam Smart Marie Bergeron Issue date: 4/20/06 Section: Justice in New Hampshire Since March 22, 1991, prisoner 93GO456 has never seen the view beyond prison walls. She has never seen hybrid cars or ipods. She has not voted in the last four elections. She has not blown out birthday candles or unwrapped Christmas presents under her family tree in almost 16 years. She has however seen many aspects of prison The entrance to Bedford Hills life, including sexual assault, violence, Correctional Facility in Bedford, harassment and involuntary protective custody. N.Y. where Pam Smart is incarcerated. The release date on Pam Smart is serving a life sentence without the Smart's paperwork is listed as possibility of parole for accomplice of first degree 9999. murder of her husband, Greg Smart. She is also serving time for conspiracy to commit murder, and witness tampering. Pam Smart began her life sentence on March 22, 1991 in the Goffstown Prison for Women in Goffstown, N.H. Two years later she was transferred to Bedford Hills Correctional Facility in Bedford, N.Y. on March 11, 1993, for unclear reasons to her family. Linda Wojas, Pam's mother, still has no idea why her daughter was moved. As soon as her transfer Media Credit: AP occurred Linda made an appointment with the Associated Press Department of Corrections Commissioner, Ronald This photo taken from television Powell. Powell resigned on June 15, 1993 and left video shows Pam Smart during an the state to pursue a teaching career. Efforts to interview Feb. 18, 2000 at the contact him were unsuccessful. Bedford Hills Correctional Facility. Pre-Dawn Shuffle: "I made an appointment with him [Powell], and when I asked him why he transferred my daughter, he said to me, 'I thought I did you a favor, I could have moved your daughter to Mississippi,'" said Wojas. State officials have offered varying reasons why Pam was moved. Jeff Strelzin, senior assistant Attorney General's office, said Pam had a poor disciplinary record here in N.H, and that was why she was transferred. "People can be transferred all over the place, it has to do with following the rules…that's what you get when you don't obey," said Strelzin. According to Jeff Lyons, N.H. Department of Corrections public information officer, Pam Smart received 22 disciplinary reports from 1991 to 1993 while in the Goffstown facility. Of those 22 reports, only two of them were major infractions, while the remaining 20 were minor. Deputy Compact Administrator Denise Heath offered other reasons for the transfer of Pam Smart. She oversees handling prison transfers as well as maintaining contracts with other states. "I wasn't here at the time of her transfer, but it is my understanding that high publicity was the reason she was transferred," she said. Heath said that at the time there was concern that someone would break her out. "Goffstown is very small, they felt that the facility was vulnerable," she said. According to Wojas, she was told that there was no maximum security facility. However, Wojas maintains that the facility was updated to maximum security in the 1980s. Denise Heath confirmed that the facility can not house maximum security prisoners. "Goffstown can not house maximum security prisoners, they don't have the technology," said Heath. However, according to DOC's own website chronology in 1988 the state used surplus funds to update "appropriate security standards" to Goffstown. Today there are two convicted murderers housed in the Goffstown facility. Susan E. McLaughlin who began her sentence on May 5, 1989, and Lucille Sanchez who began her sentence on May 8, 2003. Pam Smart entered Goffstown on March 22, 1991. Despite her murder sentence, she remained there for two years, before she was transferred. According to Heath, New Hampshire has contracts with 28 states, and New York is not one of them. "My understanding is that her transfer was done commissioner to commissioner." Pam was transferred from Goffstown to Bedford Hills early in the morning without prior notice to her family, said Wojas. "The state took her in shackles at 4:30 in the morning in a vehicle with the windows taped up," said Wojas. In an exclusive interview Pam Smart recounted the trip and said she was shackled from head to toe. "They had shackles around my wrists, ankles, and they had a belt around my waist. I had to stop to use the bathroom on the ride, and they pulled into a gas station and people were staring at me, I was so embarrassed," said Smart. The Wojas family now makes the weary 260 mile journey as often as they can to see their daughter. Prison Life: After the transfer Pam Smart found herself in a maximum security prison located in a quaint little town and living with a prison population of over 800 violent offenders. She also found that her reputation preceded her, and said she was not well received. "People were told to hate me before I even got here. You don't know what I go through because of who I am," said Smart. One of those people who hated her before they even met her was Carolyn Nurse, who was serving 10 years for eight counts of armed robbery. "Pam got there before I did, but I had pre-conceived notions from the media about her. I hated her on-sight," said Nurse. However, Nurse soon changed her feelings on Pamela Smart. "I needed to pass my pre- college math class in order to get into the college program, and I was failing. Someone suggested getting a tutor. When I asked who the best tutor was she said Pamela Smart and I said 'fuck no'. Everyone said she was the best," said Nurse. Nurse reluctantly met with Pam because Pam wanted to help her. Nurse said Pam would meet with her anytime to help her with her math, and they became great friends from spending so much time together. "I have loved her ever since, she is the most selfless person I have ever met," said Nurse. Nurse passed that math class and was accepted into the college program. She graduated valedictorian of her class. Part of Nurse's valedictorian duties included giving a speech. When she turned her speech in, there was some debate about mentioning Pam in her speech. "Pamela is really hated by the administration, and they had a problem with me mentioning her name," she said. One of those people who thought that mentioning Smart's name would be controversial was Elaine Lord, superintendent of Bedford Hills at the time. Lord was also from New Hampshire, and did not really like Pam according to Nurse. Lord declined to comment on Smart. "I do not talk about individual inmates who were within Bedford Hills. I believe that it is only fair that they not have to worry about what I have to say now that I have retired, whether good or ill," said Lord. Nurse entered the Masters of Arts in English/Literature program alongside Smart. They maintained the same exact grades until they hit expository writing. Nurse received an A-, while Smart received an A. When Nurse was told she was going to be the valedictorian of the Masters of Arts in English/ Literature program, she knew there was a mistake. "I went back to them and said 'we've made a mistake', I am not the valedictorian, Pam Smart is, and do you know what they said to me? They said to me 'we can't have her get up and make a speech,'" said Nurse. Nurse told Pamela the news, and she insisted upon Nurse getting up to make the speech, because so many people looked up to her. When it came time for the ceremony, it was announced that there would be no valedictorian. "When Pam got up to receive her diploma, we yelled valedictorian, they wouldn't recognize her, but we would," said Nurse. Hard Time and Hard Knocks: As well as dealing with her infamous reputation Pam Smart was beaten by two inmates in a 1996 fight that left her nose damaged and broke her eye socket. Pam Smart now has a metal plate in her face. Smart continues to take pain medication today for the pain that still occurs due to the beating. Nurse was present for the fight but did not wish to comment on it. In an e-mail she wrote, "I was there when Pame (sic) had that fight. However, the girl Pame fought with was also a friend of mine and I chose to stay out of it. There are two sides to it but I cannot be the one to give it to you-loyalty and all that, you know?" she said. "It's a very explosive atmosphere in here, very explosive," said Smart. Part of that explosive atmosphere included a sexual assault. Smart revealed in a recent lawsuit that a guard working in the prison sexually assaulted her. She said that he took provocative photos of her as insurance so she would not rat him out. When these suggestive photographs were published in the National Enquirer, Smart was placed in solitary confinement. "A situation happened to me and that asshole sold the pictures, after the pictures came out they threw me into solitary confinement," she said. Those photos reveal a different side of Pam, rather than the bright eyed blonde, the photos show her posed in awkward positions with haunting eyes. Wojas said that the guard who sold the pictures made $3,000 off the pictures he took of Pam. Smart is suing 13 individuals within Bedford Hills Correctional Facility not only for her sexual assault, but for the unfair treatment she received as a result of these pictures being taken. According to the lawsuit, Smart was placed into involuntary protective custody after the pictures were released. Her IPC recommendation form stated that she "may be at risk from others due to knowledge or information she has obtained in the process of taking the photos… These actions may also make inmate Smart a potential victim of others." Smart claims that no one ever came forward with a threat against her, and that she was held without solid reason. In several letters to administration Smart pleaded with them to release her from IPC because of physical and mental pains. A letter dated June 17, 2003 to Elaine Lord Smart said "…No threats have been made against me. This facility has provided no evidence that any specific person wants to hurt me." The letter also revealed her mental anguish while being held in isolation "Teaching was the only life I had in here, and now I'm as good as dead." Smart also pleaded that she was in great pain in her right leg and sacrum. Smart was actually denied a cortisone shot to help with her pain, because it required her going to the hospital. She reported her pain on June 19, and did not receive her cortisone shot until Aug. 13. On July 11, Smart was prescribed medication for her anxiety and depression. "I was in there for 72 days, and I lost 16 pounds… We could only bathe three days a week, and it was with a bucket and sponge…If it wasn't for my mother, I don't know how long they would have kept me there," said Smart. Wojas worked on getting her daughter out of confinement by writing to U.S. Senator John Sununu. Wojas wrote to Sununu the circumstances of Pam's situation and pleaded for his help. Sununu offered help and forwarded her letter to the appropriate administrators who worked to get Pam released. Sununu refused an interview, however, his communications director Barbara Riley did reply. "Constituent service is a function of public office, and Sen. Sununu is often called upon to facilitate responses from public agencies for New Hampshire residents. In 2003, he forwarded a letter from constituent Linda Wojas to Phil Stanley, New Hampshire Department of Corrections Commissioner. In 2004, he wrote to then- governor Benson indicating that his office had advised Linda and John Wojas to contact the governor's office with an appointment request," she said. As for her behavior record in Bedford Hills, Smart says she still gets written up, and that she is not a model prisoner. In fact, for her birthday last August "I got written up for people singing Happy Birthday to me, and when I got to the hearing, they said I was singing happy birthday to myself," said Smart. She said she has been written up for smuggling and possession of a deadly weapon. "I was in my cell one night and a friend walked by and asked if I needed anything washed, I pushed my laundry basket out, and I got written up for smuggling," she said. Smart continued to say that the deadly weapon charge came about because she had a can opener that she brought with her from Goffstown. "I could have the can opener in Goffstown, and it came over with me in my box of possessions, and I got written up for that," said Smart. Smart was also written up while in Goffstown on a sexual complaint, when she hugged an inmate who'd learned of a death in the family, said Wojas. Prevalence Through Despair: Smart currently lives in the mental ward of the prison in a cell decorated with purple. She works there helping rehabilitate some of the women on the ward. Many of the women are in the throes of a severe mental illness. The work she does there varies from cooking meal to helping some of them go to the bathroom. "I love my job. They love me for me, or they hate me for me, they don't know who Pam Smart is, and I love that," she said. She is allowed to cook her own meals, and sometimes cooks for others. She has access to a hot plate, but is not allowed to use her can opener. Smart has taken advantage of the education programs at Bedford Hills. She has earned two masters degrees in fine arts and criminal justice. Rather than looking at her life sentence with negativity the small framed, green eyed prisoner is making a difference in her prison community. Her academic mentor Eleanor Pam, said Smart is an exceptional student. "She has a fierce dignity," said Pam. This is evident in the letters written upon her behalf for her commutation request. In one letter written by Anastacia Brown, she writes that Pam helps and comforts her granddaughter, a prisoner there, who suffers from bi-polar disorder, as well as attention deficit disorder. Fellow inmate Denise Solla writes that, "She has so much to offer society, it would be morally wrong to not give her a chance to make her contribution," she said. Smart continues to make a contribution to her prison community while serving a life sentence for a crime she claims to not have committed. Who is Pam Smart? Who is Pam Smart? Well that depends on who you ask. Her mother describes her as a warm person. "She was the most easy going child, always smiling…," said Wojas. Wojas also said that her daughter was very responsible in the workplace but was "incredibly socially immature." Smart says she is not a model prisoner, and is not liked by everyone. One person who would disagree with that would be Carolyn Nurse. "She is just a beautiful person," said Nurse. Some people in New Hampshire do not quite share the warmth of Pam's family and friends. Attorney General Kelly Ayotte believes Pam was capable of this crime. "I'd say Pamela Smart is a classic example of a first degree murderer," said Ayotte. For trial prosecutor Paul Maggioto, "She never admitted guilt. She never expressed remorse. It's hard to feel sorry for a woman like that," he said. When asked about her prison rehabilitation he said that she has done some good things while in prison. "Is it possible that Pam Smart could be Mother Theresa of the prison? Sure, it's possible" he said. Smart does not feel that way about herself however. She said that she feels that whatever she says is taken out of context. "Apparently I am the new Hitler, apparently I can manipulate the masses," she said. Pam came to the interview dressed in green, issued prison pants, a Ralph Lauren turtleneck, and low-heeled brown boots. A gold chain with a nautical theme hangs from her tiny neck, which is surrounding by straight blonde, perfect hair. Her nails are polished too. She recounts things that keep her going. One of those things is the trailer visits she gets to have in her family. When her behavior is good, Smart is allowed a weekend trailer visit with her family. "It's nice when they come, because it's like we can be a family. They can cook for me, and I really like that. I don't get to have eggs, and ground beef here, and I love ground beef," said Smart. Other than family visits, Smart says the letters she receives are a big part of what keeps her going. Present-day: It is 4:30 in the morning, and Linda Wojas starts to row across the lake. She paddles through waves to get to her car on the other side of lake. She then begins her weary trip across several states to see Pam. Holidays and birthdays pass year after year, and Wojas continues to make the heavy hearted journey to the town of Bedford, N.Y. "She has a sentence of despair, a sentence without hope. She will die there," said Wojas.
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