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Brattleboro's Prison Legal News Featured on NPR's "Wait Wait...Don't Tell Me!" 


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Local listeners of National Public Radio's Saturday-morning news and humor show, "Wait,Wait...Don't Tell Me!" may not have picked up on last Saturday's Vermont connection. Each week, host Peter Sagal invites a celebrity guest to play a game called "Not My Job," in which the celebrity is asked three questions about a topic that, presumably, he or she knows absolutely nothing about.

Last weekend's program featured Seth MacFarlane, creator of such adult cartoon hits as "Family Guy," "American Dad" and "The Cleveland Show." MacFarlane played a game NPR's Carl Kassel dubbed, "Five hours in the slammer will change a man," in which MacFarlane was asked three questions about how the wealthy are treated differently in prison than the average shmo. As Sagal noted, those questions were based on an article published in Brattleboro's Prison Legal News, called "Prison Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous," by Matt Clarke.

PLN, the nation's largest and longest-running prison publication, was founded in May 1990 by journalist and prison activist Paul Wright. Wright, himself a convicted murder who has since paid his debt to society, moved to Vermont after his release in 2003. He still muckrakes about the abysmal conditions in U.S. prisons, including the pervasiveness of abuse, medical neglect, prisoner-on-prisoner violence, guard brutality and retaliation. Wright was featured in a March 7, 2007, cover story in Seven Days, called "Doing Wright." 

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Following Sagal's requisite repartee about "Family Guy's" obscure cultural references, baby Stewie's oblong-shaped head and MacFarlane's spot-on impression of William Shatner, Sagal and MacFarlane got down to business:

Question 1: "Pasadena, like many cities in southern California, maintains a special jail for wealthier inmates who can pay to serve their time. And when the pay-to-stay jail was opened in the '90s, it needed an advertising campaign. What was the slogan picked at that time to sell that jail? Was it A, quote, Bad things happen to good people? B: You got caught, now get comfortable? Or C: Here, we call it doing easy time?"

Question 2: "You may remember that Paris Hilton, after she was let out early, was famously ordered back to jail, where she had to do a good part of her DUI sentence. This was back in 2007. She had to serve her time, like anybody else, but she was allowed to make an emergency late-night call, though, to whom? A: her dog? B: that day's boyfriend? Or C: Barbara Walters?"

Question 3: "Tuvia Stern was a wealthy financier arrested for scamming clients, and he was allowed to do what in a New York jail? A: install a pool table? B: hold a bar mitzvah for his son? Or C: bring in his personal trainer for 10 sessions?"

MacFarlane got questions one and three right, enough to earn an NPR listener Carl Kassel's voice on a home answering machine. Want to know the correct answers? Check out the full transcript here, or better yet, read Matt Clarke's piece in the November issue of PLN.

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About The Author

Ken Picard

Ken Picard

Ken Picard has been a Seven Days staff writer since 2002. He has won numerous awards for his work, including the Vermont Press Association's 2005 Mavis Doyle award, a general excellence prize for reporters.


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