8/28/13

Mob Daughter - Karen Gravano

  I sat down to read Mob Daughter by Karen Gravano with anticipation. I mean, who hasn’t heard of VH1’s Mob Wives? Even if that was possible (in my world it is not ), you have literally been living under a rock if you’ve never heard of Karen’s father Sammy “The Bull” Gravano, right hand man to the Dapper Don, Mafia boss, John Gotti.

I’ve read every mafia book under the sun and this one followed suit- to a point.  I read Operation Family Secrets by Frank Calabrese Jr. and expected it to be similar since both were written by mob kids. I wasn’t disappointed. There are plenty of mob highlights explained from a growing girl’s perspective as well as tense conversations with ominous undertones; a veritable playground of mafia minutiae. Fun stuff.

Here’s where it gets crazy. In Mob Daughter, Karen Gravano veers from the standard mob descriptions of homicide, clandestine meetings and dangerous deals. Instead I found myself feeling the repercussions of that life along with her. No matter how many parties she threw or hundred thousand dollar homes she lived in or fancy schools she went to there was no escaping the danger that never ever went away.

Her infamous daddy and predictably timid mafia mother went further than the average to protect Karen and her brother Gerard from the truth about their father’s deadly job. They had regular family dinners throughout her life where each family member stated something new they’d learned that day. Sammy The Bull was not only an effective gangster but also did rather well as a legitimate businessman and loving family man.

This conundrum of personality gives Karen an odd mix of anger, love and admiration for her father that contradicts as much as it compliments itself in her book. Her confusion is palpable and evokes empathy.

She tells of her childhood and growing up mob style. She relays the pain of her father's arrest and conviction and then her days in the aftermath. The good, the bad and the titilating.

I was most struck by the fact that though she experienced profound feelings toward her father, her need to be in contact with him would not dissipate. Despite his actions (which he admitted to her) she needed her daddy. She was also privvy to the despicable way prisoners families are treated. 

I enjoyed the book for many reasons. The mafia connection is a draw for any fan of the genre or mafia buff but the morphing from classic mobster true crime to a self-help book of sorts is an amazing feat. 

8/24/13

Death row air conditioning rare in South

BATON ROUGE, La.: Death row air conditioning rare in South - Politics Wires - MiamiHerald.com

THE ASSOCIATED PRESS

Triple-digit heat indexes experienced by three convicted murderers suing officials at the Louisiana State Penitentiary at Angola are similar to the conditions endured by inmates on Death Row in Texas, Mississippi, Alabama and Florida.
But condemned prisoners in Arkansas have air conditioning and Arkansas prison policy calls for summertime cell temperatures ranging from 74 to 78 degrees.
"We started putting air conditioning in our older units in the late 1970s," said Shea Wilson, spokeswoman for the Arkansas Department of Corrections. Wilson said all state prisons in Arkansas now have air conditioning for all inmates.
"I'm glad to know that at least one state recognizes the need to treat prisoners like human beings," said Marjorie Esman, executive director of the ACLU of Louisiana.
The Advocate reports (http://bit.ly/19GrCSo) New Orleans nonprofit The Promise of Justice Initiative filed suit about conditions on Louisiana's death row on behalf of three inmates. According to the suit, a heat index of 195 degrees was experienced at Angola in 2011 and an index of 172 degrees occurred last year.
Angola Warden Burl Cain testified last week that he doubts the super-high heat indexes are accurate. He said prison officials believe inmates deliberately manipulated Death Row thermometers in ways that falsely enhanced temperature readings in past years.
Temperatures recorded at Angola in July and August 2011 "consistently ranged from 88 . to 100 degrees," according to a court filing by Mercedes Montagnes, deputy director of the New Orleans nonprofit.

Read more here: http://www.miamiherald.com/2013/08/24/3583091/death-row-air-conditioning-rare.html#storylink=cpy