Memoir About MD Inmate Book Club Leads to Prison Ban

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A volunteer literature instructor at the Jessup Correctional Institution in Maryland was dismissed by state prison officials, apparently in retaliation after she wrote a memoir about her experiences. The Baltimore Sun reports that Mikita Brottman, a professor of literature at the Maryland Institute College of Art, had volunteered at the prison for the past four years, teaching classics–Melville, Poe, Shakespeare–to a small group of inmates. Her memoir, “The Maximum Security Book Club,” was published in June, and she was profiled July 22 in the Sun. Three weeks later, on Aug. 15, Brottman received a cryptic email from an assistant warden at Jessup: “Unfortunately you will not be permitted to volunteer at JCI due to your failure to adhere to rules set forth by our volunteer program coordinator.”

When Brottman asked why she had been dismissed, an official wrote that prison administrators “do not have to offer explanations for such actions.” A prison spokeswoman told that Sun that Brottman was barred from Jessup because the new warden has “concerns over the relationships that she has developed with offenders, as evidenced in her publications.” She also claimed that Brottman never received official permission to write the book. Brottman said her book manuscript had been vetted by three prison officials, including a previous warden.

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