Last year, our state prison system got a shock when a 34-year-old female officer named Jayme Biendl was strangled to death inside the chapel at the State Reformatory in Monroe. The shock inspired one woman to write a book about it.
Patricia Franklin-Therrell had spent time in the prison at Monroe. She was working for Edmonds Community College teaching inmates to read, write, and get their lives together.
Her book starts with a dedication to Biendl:
“For Jayme…I will always be saddened you couldn’t be saved from the pure evil that resides in what is otherwise a fairly decent world.”
I asked her what she meant by “pure evil.”
“There are monsters in prison. And if anyone doesn’t think so they’re quite naive. But they are not the norm,” says Franklin-Therrell. “The rest are primarily poor, uneducated. They haven’t had opportunities.”
Franklin-Therrel says she’s not excusing the inmates, adding that they’ve done very bad things.
“But my concern is when we get them in that prison, they have this time out that’s extremely expensive. We do very little or nothing to make them better, and then we release them.”
I also asked her what she thought was the key for someone to turn their lives around.
“Well, turning 40 seems to be the magical number, having a good support group, and having remorse.”
Being remorseful is not usually job one for an accused criminal. The first thing a lot of them are told to do is to plead not guilty. Even the ones who admit to something don’t always talk about remorse.
“I see it in newspapers, I hear it on the radio, I see it on TV, ‘Well, I just made a mistake.’ They didn’t make a mistake. They committed crimes. And just getting those actual words out makes a difference,” she says.
While plenty of people argue many hardened criminals deserve to rot in prison, Franklin-Therrell takes another approach, despite what happened to Biendl.
“If you take hope away from people they become destructive and hopeless,” she says.
Franklin-Therrell’s new book is “Justice for #997543.” It’s written under the pen name, Patricia Cage.