The Nation -- 20 December 1999

Letter to the Editor

by Daniel Radosh

Daniel Radosh writes: According to my old friend Lori Berenson, life in a Peruvian prison is even worse than I had thought. Exactly four years ago, Lori was arrested in Lima, where she had been working for non-violent political reform. She was charged, preposterously, with treason and convicted by a secret military tribunal with no semblance of due process. Maintaining her innocence, Lori was sentenced to life in prison. I've known Lori since junior high when we passed notes behind the teacher's back. Today we correspond only in Spanish so her guards can monitor what we say. She is not allowed to write much about her circumstances, which are appalling, or her health, which is deteriorating, but it wouldn't be her style to complain. In her most recent letter, however, Lori does write of a new affront to her dignity. Her prison wing has been given radio privileges, which, to her horror, means disco music: "I can put up with this regime of isolation and confinement," she says, "but nobody said when they sentenced me that I was going to have to listen to 'Won't you take me to Funky Town.'" After four years, Lori's sense of humor helps keep her strong. Reading between the lines, I know she's counting on our sense of outrage to set her free. For more information and to learn how you can help, visit