With that kind of self-reflection, and obstinate determination, Blakinger committed herself to prison programs and counseling, which led to recovery.
She was 28 when she was released. At a time when drug overdose deaths are skyrocketing — there were more than 100,000 of them in the United States in the 12-month period ending in April 2021, a record — sufferers of substance-use disorders and their families may need stories of hope. Blakinger’s fine book offers promise to sufferers of addiction, eating disorders, depression or other manifestations of psychic pain, and to those serving time.
However, “Corrections in Ink” doesn’t stop at recovery.
Over the course of her incarceration, Blakinger witnessed (and experienced) abuse and inhumane conditions. “In the beginning, every horror story you hear in prison seems incredible — not just extraordinary, but impossible to believe. When a woman tells you about the officer who punched her in the face, you think there must be more to it. When old-timers warn you about the brutality of women raping each other, you wonder if they’re hazing you.”
Post-prison, Blakinger started writing about the criminal justice system. I’ve read her pieces for The Marshall Project, where her “Inside Out” column is always smart and topical. At The Washington Post, she went from sensational headline to lauded byline, joining a team that won a National Magazine Award for coverage of women’s jails.
“People say when you’re in prison that you’re doing time — like it is a thing you will do and it will be over,” Blakinger writes. “But then you get out, and you discover that there is more, as if the wasted hours and minutes follow you around and now your life is about reversing them, making good, undoing time. And when I looked at what I’d done with my time, I wondered: Was it enough? Would it ever be enough?”
With her journalism and now this inspiring and relevant memoir, she’s made a good start.
David Sheff is the author of “Beautiful Boy” and “The Buddhist on Death Row.” He is working on a biography of Yoko Ono.
CORRECTIONS IN INK, by Keri Blakinger | 336 pp. | St. Martin’s | $28.99