Mary King's Mission
Women imprisoned for unplanned killings, King explains, often committed "crimes of passion." The victim may have been an abusive or unfaithful boyfriend or husband.
King, forty-nine, has seen her share of murderers-and other ex-convicts. For the past three years, she's been Washtenaw County coordinator for the Michigan Prisoner ReEntry Initiative (MPRI). Research suggests, she says, that people locked up for lesser felonies, like robbery, often renew bad habits with their old circle of friends when they're released. In contrast, she says, women who've killed in the heat of the moment often emerge from prison in their mature years determined to leave quiet and lawful lives.
The subject came up because I've been thinking about taking a roommate in my condo-and had just mused aloud that maybe I should consider an ex-felon. I tell King I'll think about her suggestion of a friendly Second Degreer.
King, two social work interns, and I are zipping along I-94 in King's dark red Prius. She's taking us to Cassidy Lake, a boot camp for young offenders northwest of Chelsea. Tall and string-bean thin, her long brown hair streaked with blond, King snaps with energy and can't seem to get where she's going fast enough. Occasionally she takes both hands off the wheel to munch at an ever-present container of grapes and strawberries. As we pull up at the camp she briskly waves us out-with a reminder that all we can take inside is a notebook and a pen.