New York Times
New York Region

NEW YORK BOOKSHELF

Published: April 4, 2004

LIFE ON THE OUTSIDE: The Prison
Odyssey of Elaine Bartlett
By Jennifer Gonnerman
Farrar, Straus & Giroux
($24, hardcover)

Like all new parolees, Elaine had to report to her parole officer within 24 hours of leaving prison. Lora steered the van through the Upper East Side and Midtown, then stopped in front of 119 West 31st Street, one block from Madison Square Garden. There was no sign on this 15-story building, but inside was Elaine's parole office.

The next stop was Gus' Place, a restaurant in the West Village. Elaine, Lora, and Apache arrived at 3:30 p.m. Just as they neared the front door, Elaine saw a taxi stop in front and let out three passengers: her 19-year-old daughter, Satara, Satara's boyfriend, and a female friend. Elaine hurried toward Satara and squeezed her arms around her.

At the same moment, a photographer and cameraman ran over to record the reunion. Apparently, there was no time for a private hug. Elaine grabbed Satara's hand and led her into the restaurant. Satara retreated to a corner with her friends, while Elaine bounced from reporter to reporter, reveling in the media spotlight.

"When you heard that [20-to-life] sentence, what were you thinking?" asked a WPIX-TV reporter.

"That I was railroaded out of my life," Elaine said. "It didn't take me 16 years, two weeks, and three days to learn my lesson. You could have put me on probation. You could have had me do community service. There were different things you could've done with me other than throwing me in jail and throwing away the key like I was Charles Manson or somebody."

©2004 New York Times