Prison Notes from Pam
The quotations below resulted from communications between Pamela Smart and David Mendelsohn, who took her prison portraits for us.
photo by david mendelsohn
I miss steak the most. I also miss having fresh fruits and vegetables. I know this may sound strange, but the first thing I'd want to eat upon release would be a Big Mac and French fries.
I absolutely miss the opportunity to have children, and I do think about that a lot. I imagine I would have a family with Gregg. I believe I would have been a loving, generous and patient mother.
I miss being able to spend time with my family and friends, outside of these walls. I miss traveling, the beach, fireworks, carnivals, driving, water skiing and just being able to have the freedom to choose. I miss the smell of Greg's cologne and his leather jacket. I miss smelling freshly mown grass, gasoline, fresh flowers, suntan lotion and my mom's cooking.
I try to stay abreast of technology and life outside of here through family and friends, but I also listen to news and talk shows a lot. I've never used a cell phone or the internet though.
We do have one television for 60 women on the housing unit, but I don't watch TV. The other inmates argue too much over programs. We don't have cable, so I've never seen “Orange is the New Black," although I've read the book. There is much more violence, and a lot more restrictions, here than in the prison she described.
I live in a 7' x 10' cell. There is a solid door, with a small window. There's a bed, a toilet and a sink with cold water only. I have a window on the back wall that is covered with thick bars. All the cells are single, so no one has a cellmate.
One thing about prison is that there is never silence. You can always hear keys jingling when the officers do rounds, radios blasting tuned to different stations, people talking, the TV, the officers’ walkie talkies, etc. There is constant noise; arguing, complaining, yelling, etc. It does die down somewhat at night but there are always women who talk to, or argue with, these imaginary voices they hear when you are trying to sleep.
I can't even remember the beginning of my incarceration. It was so surreal, that it is almost a blur. Yes, there were tears, confusion and pain. I wouldn't say there was “hopelessness” at the beginning however, because I knew I was innocent. I didn't think I 'd be kept in prison for a crime I wasn't involved in. At the time, I was very naïve and believed in justice.
I know never to forget where I am, not for even one second. I wake up on the defensive every day because I never know what to expect. But I have also learned that, whatever comes my way, God will give me the strength to survive it.
I regret ever having become involved with Bill Flynn. I was raised to know better, and I was wrong to enter into that relationship. I followed my heart, rather than my head. I regret that my choice to engage in that relationship ended in Gregg's death. It is an awful burden to carry. I also deeply regret all the hurt, pain and devastation that resulted for so many people, including the Smart family, my own family and all other families involved.
Of course I feel responsible in many ways for Gregg's death. I know that, if I had not chosen to involve myself with Bill, Gregg would still be alive. I carry that in my heart and mind every day. Although I never asked, or wanted, anyone to kill Gregg, my poor choices still ended in his death. That is the biggest grief I carry daily. I have tried to honor my own responsibility in doing what I can every single day of my life here to do positive things and help others.
To Gregg's parents, I would tell them how deeply sorry I am for making such horrible choices that led to Gregg's death. I would ask them to remember Gregg and I together, all the time we spent with them, and think about how much we loved one another. Gregg and I both chose to marry because of that love, and I think that somewhere that fact has been lost. Yes, we were young and immature in some ways, but our love was real. I never would have been a part of killing Gregg. I loved him too much to ever be a part of that.
To the people of NH, I would say that they hate someone they don't even know. So much hype has been created around my name and the fact that I am a human being has been lost. Yes, I am a flawed person. I made some horrible choices. I cannot take those back, or erase what happened. I wish I could. I'm not the wooden woman I have been portrayed to be but I'm deeply spiritual, loving, generous, kind and helpful. I have a family, and an aging mother and father who want to sleep peacefully, for at least one night of their lives, knowing I am finally home. I have already spent 25½ years in prison for my poor choices and still receive hate mail from strangers.
This incarceration hasn't been easy. While the others in this case were held in medium and minimum-security prisons, I am doing my time in the only maximum-security prison for women in New York State. I've been assaulted by other inmates and corrections officers here.
As a high-profile inmate, my time has been rougher than most. I witness daily how destructive hate and unforgiveness can be. I say this, not to elicit sympathy, but wonder how much suffering will ever be enough to satisfy the people of NH. I would ask them to replace certain feelings of loathing with those of mercy and love.
Yes, I am a Christian, and my faith is the center of my life. Without God, I could never have survived. It is not because of my own strength, but because of His, that I am even still alive.
My spiritual life is very important to me. I am a leader in our church. I attend three hours of church services and three hours of Bible study weekly. I am the director of our church praise dancers and I completed both Clinical Pastoral Education classes and Discipleship Training (both Masters' level courses). These certifications allow me to assist women in crisis here, which I often do. My spiritual growth has helped me to recognize, and own, my responsibility in this whole tragedy. It has been critical in my ability to live each day with a grateful spirit, for all the blessings I do have, no matter how small they may seem to others.
I also know that, wherever I am, each day in front of me is an opportunity to do good. Before I fall asleep, I always ask myself, “Who did I help today?” You can say anything, but it's how you live that speaks the loudest for you.
As for your editor's question, yes, I absolutely gain strength from...Biblical prisoners[.] There is hope in all their stories because they demonstrate that life is more important than any one individual. God has lessons in all tragedies. He does not cause the tragedies, but He gives us the strength to survive them.