Sara Jane Olson, 59, a former Symbionese Liberation Army radiocal, earns 24 cents an hour emptying trash cans and tidying up in a Chowchilla, Ca., prison, reports the Los Angeles Times. Caught in 1999 after living as a fugitive for 23 years, she was convicted of murder and other crimes. Olson, who is serving a 7-year term, talked about her experience in a way that “reveals much about punishment and survival in a state system that holds 11,730 women,” the Times says.
Olson fears landing in the prison health care organization that experts say claims one life a week through malpractice or neglect. She laments the absence of anything meaningful to do. She craves privacy. She awaits the moment in 2009 when she’ll go home to her husband and daughters in Minnesota. Inmates say there is an unwritten rule that you do not ask an incarcerated sister what she has done. Olson’s posture is nonthreatening and her expression is blank. To show emotion is to attract unwanted attention or to risk causing offense. Olson worries about the growing number of older women in prison. Younger inmates prey on the elderly, stealing their belongings, extorting food and favors.