Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

The Jean Harris Case

From Behind Bars

She didn't.  Her time in prison may have been miserable but it was spent quite usefully.  She published three books while behind bars: Stranger in Two Worlds, They Always Call Us Ladies, and Marking Time

The first book was her autobiography.  It dealt with her entire life up to that point including some of her experiences in prison.  They Always Call Us Ladies was entirely about her experiences in prison, her observations about the prison system, and includes a brief history of that system.  Marking Time consists of letters the imprisoned Harris wrote to Shana Alexander.  The two became friends while Alexander was writing Very Much A Lady, a book that Harris deliberately did not ever read.

Jean Harris spent much of her time in prison working at the Bedford Prison Children's Center and helping to give parenting classes to inmate moms.  As she points out in her books, people tend to lose sight of the fact that convicts are often also mothers and fathers and, indeed, that many mothers give birth while incarcerated. 

Her attorneys appealed the verdict three times but lost.  She petitioned for clemency and was repeatedly denied but finally, on December 29, 1992, after serving twelve years behind bars and suffering two heart attacks while in prison, her sentence was commuted by then-Governor of New York, Mario Cuomo.

Now in her mid 70s, Harris devotes much of her time to raising money for the education of the children of inmates at the Bedford Hills Correctional Facility.

Jean in 1993 (AP)
Jean in 1993 (AP)


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