Correspondence

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Dear Friends,

 

I just want to take this opportunity to thank you for all the support you have so generously given me and my family.

Your love and prayers have sustained me through some of my most difficult moments.

I was only 22 years old when I was sentenced to spend the rest of my life behind bars. Sometimes when I think about how I have lost 1/3 of my life to prison and how I am slated to die here, it is almost too much to bear.

Alone, I could not survive. It is only through faith in God and the love and support of family and friends that I am able to endure this. It would be easy to give up; it is much more difficult to survive.

May God Bless you for your Kindness.

Pamela Smart.

.

In 2004, Pamela applied for a Commutation of Sentence. These are some of the letters supporting that request.

Additional Letters supporting Pamela

Sister Katherine Fisher states:

I am writing this letter on behalf of Pamela Smart with whom I worked daily for nine years.  Pamela was the most outstanding Teacher Aide I have had in the twenty years that I have been employed at this Facility.  During the years that Pamela worked with me, I found her to be gifted academically and capable of teaching many students with learning difficulties.  Her approach was a combination of patience and skill in helping them understand the subject matter.  Pamela is one of the most generous women I have known at this Facility.  Hours of her time are spent tutoring and encouraging individuals to achieve.  The time she has given to others has resulted in promotion or receiving a G.E.D. or college degree.  Pamela is generally available to any student who is in need of assistance.  This has earned her the respect of her peers.  Nine years is a long time to observe someone daily.  Pamela was able to anticipate the needs of individual students.  Her love for teaching resulted in a love of learning on their part.  Pamela’s behavior is consistently positive.  In my experience with her, what stands out most are her personal gifts of generosity, integrity, respect for authority and cooperation in any area in which she is asked to work.  I believe that Pamela Smart would be an asset to society.  Her motivation and ability will enable her to make positive contributions.  I highly recommend her for clemency.

Mr. Lynn Wildman, Outreach Coordinator writes:

I am in charge of a Volunteer Tutoring Program at BHCF for women who request tutoring help during their free time in addition to their regular class time during the day.  They are tutored by inmate tutors who have completed some college credits (some with 4 year degrees or more).  Pamela Smart has been one of my teacher aides for approximately ten years.  I have come to know her quite well and have some very positive impression of her.  In the fourteen years that I have coordinated this program she is the best teacher aide I have ever had.  During this period approximately 50 teacher aides have worked for me.  In her capacity as a teacher aide Pame Smart has been extremely committed, cooperative, and capable.  She brings great energy, enthusiasm, and effectiveness to her work assignment as a one-on-one tutor.  Her students like her and respond well to her high expectations of them.  Many of her students have earned their high school equivalency diplomas and most have enrolled in our college program.  Her positive attitude and belief in education fosters self-esteem in her students and motivates them to do their best.  I have never had a student make a complaint about her.  I am also very much impressed with Pame Smart’s personal qualities.  She is a warm, caring, self-confident, very intelligent young woman who relates very well to others.  She is very thoughtful (e.g. she is the teacher aide who remembers my birthday each year).  She is generous with her time in helping others.  An illustration of this is her present tutoring of three women in the long-term care unit in our residential medical center.  I had been approached last April by the Academic Supervisor and the Deputy of Health Services to identify an inmate who would on her own do cell study with women in the long term care unit without my direct supervision.  As a part-time employee my schedule made it impossible for me to do this tutoring.  The only inmate I would recommend was Pame Smart.  Several months earlier she had been reassigned to work as a peer counselor for women with mental health issues, which meant she was no longer working for me.  When I approached her about the teacher aide position with women in the long-term care unit she was very excited about the prospect of tutoring again but felt an obligation to her peer counseling position.  To make a long story short she agreed to be a volunteer tutor two or three afternoons a week from 3:30 –5:00 p.m. in the long-term care unit.  She has been highly successful with the three women she worked with since last May.  These women were not able to attend classes or the tutoring program in the school building due to their health problems.  One of her students is a 66 year old black woman who weighs over 500 pounds who is now working on obtaining her GED.  Pamela Smart has proven to be as fully capable as a professional cell study tutor, if not more so!   The consideration by you to possibly commute Pamela Smart’s sentence involves at least three factors:  (1) her potential danger to society; (2) the political fallout from your decision; and (3) the justification for a “life without parole” sentence (no other person at this maximum security prison for women has such a sentence).  From my perspective if Pamela Smart’s sentence were to be commuted to release now or in the not too distant future she would be a very productive, contributing member of society; she would be of no threat to anyone; and there would be no political fallout for you.  Her very productive time at Bedford where she has earned two Master’s degrees and given unselfishly and effectively to so many women here who she has tutored convince me of the wisdom and apparent necessity of commuting her sentence.  She has demonstrated by her strength of character, and her superior personal and work qualities that she is deserving of your thoughtful consideration of her request. 

Inmate Elizabeth Gonzalez writes:

My name is Elizabeth Gonzalez.  I’m writing you in regards to Pamela Smart.  I’ve known Pamela for eight years and I just want to share how her friendship has left a big impact in my life.  Pamela was a teacher aide when I came to pre-GED class.  I had a 6 0 reading and math level.  I couldn’t read or write proper English nor did I know my time tables in math.  Pamela would take her time every day and helped me through it all.  When I took the table test Pamela had so much faith in me, and she knew that I would pass, and yes indeed I passed with a 9.5 and went straight to GED screening.  From there we built a friendship and she became my tutor.  I got to know the person she is, and God she’s a beautiful person inside and out.  At one point in my life I fell into a depression, and even attempted to take my life, and Pamela was the only person I had behind these prison walls to help me get through my ordeal.  She would sit with me for hours, and I would vent and tell her what I was struggling with.  Her dedication to lift my spirits and the feedback she gave me always left me feeling so light.  She has a heart of gold, and I cannot believe she has to spend her life behind bars.  I call her my “golden friend” and I always tell her if I could take half of her time and do it with her I would.  There is not an inch of malice in her, I can’t see her harming anyone; Pamela deserves her freedom.  I’m twenty-seven years old and I’m HIV positive, and there is so much stigma in prison, but Pamela treats me with so much love and concern.  I know if something was to happen to me, and I could not tend to myself, Pamela would be the only person who would be by my side till my dying day.  I look at her and see the life she has in her, her smile, her kindness and her heart is a blessing to me.  I thank God for sending me such a wonderful person, who has helped me become the woman I am today.  I hope you will consider granting her another chance at life outside these walls.

Inmate Helen Taylor writes:

I am writing this letter on behalf of Pamela Smart.  I first met Ms. Smart when she began tutoring me with my GED studies.  I have truly learned a lot from her.  She has a gift for helping people understand things that they previously had trouble with.  During the time I have worked with Ms. Smart I have also gotten to know her as a person.  I find her to be a person of concern and a caring individual who always makes the time for others.  She is always helping someone with something.  Many other inmates go to her needing assistance with a lot of different things.  Even though she is busy with her own work, she always makes time for others.  When I worked on a maintenance and painting project on Ms. Smart’s unit, I had the opportunity to witness her interactions with the other women on her housing unit.  She works and lives on a unit where many of the women are mentally ill.  I noticed that Ms. Smart has a lot of patience with others.  The biggest thing I noticed about her is that she is very genuine.  She does not act like she cares; she does care.  Sometimes when I look at her attitude, it is hard to believe that she has a life sentence without a chance for parole.  Many other people put in her situation would have just given up.  A lot of women here, including me, are inspired by Ms. Smart’s ability to be so positive and caring despite her circumstances.  I know why she is here, and I believe she is innocent.  The media has made her out to be someone she is not.  I think she deserves a chance to be a productive member of society outside these walls.  She has a lot to offer the world.  Her talents could be used in a better way.  A life sentence is too harsh.  I hope you will give her the chance to leave here.        

Inmate Julia Long states:

I respectfully submit this letter on behalf of Ms. Pamela Smart.  I have known Ms. Smart for approximately eight years.  I have worked with Pame as a fellow teacher’s aide for seven years.  During this time I have had the opportunity to observe her in both a one-on-one tutoring capacity and within the classroom setting.  I have found Pame to be a remarkable individual with a gift for helping her peers.  Working in a prison entails added responsibilities that complicate academic achievement.  Many of the women we teach are under great stress having suffered their loss of freedom and the ability to attend to their children’s needs.  As students, these women often construct walls around themselves which make teaching them very difficult.  However, Ms. Smart has been successful at reaching these students because of her extreme dedication to assisting them.  She prepares individual, well thought out lessons, for each of her students.  She is patient, conscientious, and dependable.  Very often, she is the first person to enter the sessions and the last one to leave.  Her dedication has been instrumental in the lives of her many students as they achieve academic success.   There is no special award here for exemplary service.  Those who work beyond that which is required only do so because they care enough to.  Pamela Smart is such an individual.  Her reward lies in the successes of those whose lives she touches.  To see her at work is to see all of who she is:  caring, resolute and genuine.  As an individual, she is worthy of your consideration.  She has so much more to offer this world than that which is confined behind prison walls.  I realize that a character reference from an inmate may not carry much weight, however, I hope that you see beyond my temporary situation to what this really is, one human being commenting on another.  I thank you for not allowing my present situation to discredit my assessment of Ms. Smart’s character.  Please give her the opportunity to make an impact elsewhere as well.   

Former Inmate Carolyn Nurse wrote:

I am writing this letter in support of Pamela Smart who is seeking the commutation of a life sentence.  I implore you to take into consideration all that Pamela has done to help others to change their lives at Bedford Hills Correctional Facility.  During her time here at Bedford, Pamela sought to identify altruistically with those of us who came from impoverished urban areas of New York State.  Pamela has encountered many women from various economic and social backgrounds seeking to change their lives through education, therapy and spirituality.  She has mentored and tutored those who sought her help.  I was one of those women.  When I entered Bedford Hills, I was afraid and angry.  I believed that the life of an addict and thief was the only life that I was capable of leading.  After extensive therapy, I gained enough confidence to join the college program in 1997.  However, there is no doubt that I faced a great challenge.  While I was strong in many subject areas I possessed a fifth grade math level and found that I could not receive a degree without mastering mathematics.  It was during this time that I became affiliated with Pamela.  Tirelessly, Pamela tutored me in mathematics.  She became my friend, my mentor, and my confidant.  She never gave up on me and would not allow me to give up on myself.  Through her encouragement and efforts, I became convinced that I could pass algebra and logic.  However, I never dreamed that a few years later I would graduate magna cum laude.  After Pamela’s pedagogical expertise and her undying faith in my abilities, I graduated at the top of my undergraduate class as the 2002 valedictorian.  I could never have achieved this without her help.  She has been an incredible source of inspiration in my life.  I have watched her mentor women with little or no self-esteem and assist them through tremendous self-actualization processes.  Women seeking GED instruction, women seeking calculus and statistics instruction and women seeking writing and history instruction have all sought out Pamela Smart.  Cultural and class differences have not been influential enough to impede the bonds of sisterhood developed over time.  Pamela’s struggle with the tremendous amount of time she has been given has also not been enough to encumber her love of education and zest for life.  She is a staunch advocate of education and female empowerment.  She has done so very much to help the women in this prison and would be far more valuable in society than she could ever be here.  Again, I implore you to take her selfless contributions to the women at Bedford Hills and her own transformations and spiritual growth into consideration.  Keeping Pamela Smart in prison would be an injustice to her and to society.  I ask that you please give her another chance to begin her life anew.