Vermont Public is independent, community-supported media, serving Vermont with trusted, relevant and essential information. We share stories that bring people together, from every corner of our region. New to Vermont Public? Start here.

© 2024 Vermont Public | 365 Troy Ave. Colchester, VT 05446

Public Files:

For assistance accessing our public files, please contact or call 802-655-9451.
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

VPR's coverage of arts and culture in the region.

New York's Dannemora Prison Break Inspires YA Novel Exploring Race

"Breakout," the new novel by author Kate Messner, captures a community's response - and questions - following the escape of two inmates from a nearby maximum security prison.
From left: Bloomsbury Publishing, Kate Messner
"Breakout," the new novel by author Kate Messner, captures a community's response - and questions - following the escape of two inmates from a nearby maximum security prison.

Two men escaped from a maximum security prison in Dannemora, New York, three years ago. The Adirondack community was wracked by fear and uncertainy as the manhunt to find the two convicted murders lasted nearly a month.

But the incident also inspired author Kate Messner to write a young adult novel based on the frightening real-life event.

In her novel Breakout, the fictional town of Wolf Creek experiences a similar escape. Messner tells the story with snippets of text messages, news stories, letters, poems and comics.

Messner told Vermont Edition she also used the community conversation about what was happening at the prison to look critically at who's incarcerated there, who works there and the criminal justice system at the core of many of those discussions.

"[In] northern New York, these prisons are so much a part of the community and employ so much of the community. And it is interesting to look at the fact that we have a lot of mostly white communities whose economies are based on this prison system." — Kate Messner on her novel Breakout

"I especially wanted to include that in this story because sometimes I think in ... a lot of the smaller towns that are less diverse — in northern New York, in Vermont, in other parts of New England — we tend to have to face those issues less often," Messner said. 

She said she hopes her book can help spark more of those conversations.

"I feel like these are a lot of the conversations — uncomfortable ones sometimes — that a lot of us are having at our dinner tables these days. ... And I think quite often it is kids who can bring up those issues and get them talked about," Messner said.

Listen to the interview with Messner above. Broadcast on Tuesday, June 5, 2018 at noon; rebroadcast at 7 p.m.

A graduate of NYU with a Master's Degree in journalism, Mitch has more than 20 years experience in radio news. He got his start as news director at NYU's college station, and moved on to a news director (and part-time DJ position) for commercial radio station WMVY on Martha's Vineyard. But public radio was where Mitch wanted to be and he eventually moved on to Boston where he worked for six years in a number of different capacities at member station a Senior Producer, Editor, and fill-in co-host of the nationally distributed Here and Now. Mitch has been a guest host of the national NPR sports program "Only A Game". He's also worked as an editor and producer for international news coverage with Monitor Radio in Boston.
Latest Stories