PEN/Newman’s Own Award recipient Barbara Parsons Lane given parole
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From The Hartford Courant
Dwight F. Blint
The state has granted parole to a woman who won a $25,000 writing award with the help of best-selling author Wally Lamb.
Barbara Parsons Lane, 56, of Warren, is scheduled to be released in May, said Greg Everett, chairman of the Board of Pardons and Paroles. Lane, who killed her husband, was convicted of first-degree manslaughter with a firearm and sentenced to 10 years in 1997.
Everett said Lane received a unanimous vote from the three-member panel that heard her case Monday. The panel was convinced she was capable of returning to society, he said.
“They felt she was a good risk to be paroled and that she would do well in the community,” said Everett, who did not attend the hearing. He said he was not aware of any opposition to her parole.
One of the elements that worked in Lane’s favor was that she had enrolled in and completed most of the rehabilitative programs at the York Correctional Institution, he said.
One of those programs was a writing workshop taught by Lamb, of Mansfield, whose novel She’s Come Undone became a best-seller after being endorsed by talk show host Oprah Winfrey.
As a student in the workshop, Lane contributed to Couldn’t Keep It To Myself: Testimonies from our Imprisoned Sisters, a collection of essays written by eight female inmates in the prison. Lamb helped the writer’s polish their work and get the collection published.
The book created a firestorm because Lamb submitted the work to his publisher, Harper Collins, without the approval of correction officials. After the book was published, prison officials shut down the writing program and the state attempted to seize the women’s royalties to pay for the cost of their incarceration.
The PEN American Center, in protest of the state’s policy, awarded Lane a $25,000 prize. The media attention the award generated eventually caused the state to allow the women to keep their royalties and for Lane to keep her prize. The writing program was eventually reinstated as well.
Attorney Richard Meehan, who is representing Lane, said supporters wrote close to 50 letters to the parole board. He also submitted a mountain of citations, awards and certificates of merit that Lane earned in prison.
“One thing I found remarkable about her, unlike most inmates, she didn’t disavow what she did or blame others. She had a great deal of remorse and took responsibility for her conduct,” he said.
Meehan said he has not talked to Lane since her parole was approved.
“I know she would have been devastated if they had turned her down and made her wait,” said Meehan.
Meehan said there is a recently formed group in the Kent area called the Friends of Barbara Lane, which plans to help her get housing and a job once she is released. He said Lane hopes to continue writing and to serve as an advocate for women in correctional facilities.