Prison and a 'Sentence Without Hope'
By: Marie Bergeron
Since March 22, 1991, prisoner 93GO456 has never seen the view beyond
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
She has however seen many aspects of prison life, including sexual
assault, violence, harassment and involuntary protective custody.
Pam Smart is serving a life sentence without the possibility of
parole for accomplice of first degree murder of her husband, Greg Smart. She is also serving time for conspiracy to commit murder, and
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 occurred Linda made an appointment
with the Department of Corrections Commissioner, Ronald Powell.
Powell resigned on June 15, 1993 and left the state to pursue a
teaching career. Efforts to contact him were unsuccessful.
"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,"
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
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
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.
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
"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 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
"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
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
"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,
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
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
"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
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
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 with 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.
People Magazine Article
Click on the image below to read the April 2, 2007 article from People Magazine.