Kenneth E. Hartman

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Kenneth E. Hartman (born December 28, 1960) is an American writer and prison activist. A convicted murderer, he is serving life in prison in California.

When he was 19 years old, he murdered a homeless man after an alcohol and drug binge. He was sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole. While in prison, he has married and has fathered a daughter.[1]

He was one of the proponents of the "Honor Yard" in California State Prison in Lancaster; the program involves "600 inmates who have promised to avoid drugs, gang activity and violence against each other or prison staff and who live in a section of the prison separated from the general inmates" where they may take training and classes.[1] Hartman wrote about his experiences in prison and this program in his essay "A Prisoners' Purpose", which won one of the John Templeton Foundation's 2004 Power of Purpose awards.[2] In a 2009 New York Times editorial, he described the effects of the recession on the prison system.[3] He has also written against the penalty of life imprisonment without parole, calling it "the other death penalty".[4] In a December 2014 feature for Harper's magazine, he described three decades of prison Christmases to illustrate the progressive attempts to dehumanize prisoners in the United States.[5]

His 2009 memoir Mother California: A Story of Redemption Behind Bars (ISBN 0692358331) won the 2010 Eric Hoffer Award for memoir.[6]


  1. ^ a b Greg Botonis (March 21, 2005). "Better Life Behind Bars; Inmate Working Against Chaos". Daily News (Los Angeles, CA). 
  2. ^ John Templeton Foundation (2005). The Power of Purpose Awards 2004. Cosimo Inc. ISBN 1-59605-121-3. 
  3. ^ Kenneth E. Hartman (5 September 2009). "The Recession Behind Bars". The New York Times. 
  4. ^ Voices from Solitary: Kenneth E. Hartman on “The Other Death Penalty”, 19 May 2010
  5. ^ "Christmas in Prison: Greeting the holidays in an age of mass incarceration" in Harper's magazine, December 2014 issue
  6. ^ Hoffer Award Memoir winner 2010

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