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Should Serial Killers and Rapists Make a Profit from Their Artwork?

This is a partial transcript from "Hannity & Colmes," November 15, 2005, that has been edited for clarity.

SEAN HANNITY, CO-HOST: A Massachusetts serial killer is getting his big break, but many area residents of the state aren't happy about it. Four-time convicted rapist and murderer Alfred Gaynor's drawing of Jesus is being auctioned off online by The Fortune Society, a prison advocacy group.

The bidding for Gaynor's original art work, "A Righteous Man's Reward," starts at $15. The sale of the art work is in advance of a larger art show that will take place in New York next month. It will feature 130 pieces of art created by prison inmates.

Joining us now for more, Joanne Pace, the executive director of the Fortune Society.

You know, this outrages particularly conservatives who feel that these people should not be capitalizing and you should not be helping these people express themselves who have committed violent crimes. I know you've heard that argument. How do you respond to that?

JOANNE PAGE, THE FORTUNE SOCIETY: I think this is a very simple issue. In the same criminal justice system, you have prevention, you have punishment and you have rehabilitation. We're excellent at punishment. I believe strongly in rehabilitation.

ALAN COLMES, CO-HOST: They're called correctional facilities. But what's the advantage of someone who — and they're not all murderers. I mean, there are people there with all kinds of crimes, but they highlight this Gaynor guy because he's probably the biggest offender among the artists. Right?

PAGE: Right.

COLMES: What's in it? This is art therapy? It's something called art therapy?

PAGE: Well, what we have in prisons is we've seen a reduction in services. We've seen the destruction of college programs. We've seen a decrease in drug treatment. Art is one of the things left to people. The Fortune Society has had this show for a number of years, because what we try to do is work with people to bring out what's good in them.

COLMES: Where do the moneys go? Because I think people get upset, are these people capitalizing on these crimes and using their crimes for their art and thus making money at it?

PAGE: We would not accept a piece of art that capitalized on a crime. This is a picture of Jesus praying. This is not something about the crime. The money will go to him, but the bidding starts at $15. It's small money, but I think it's a very big...

COLMES: How much money could somebody make doing this?

PAGE: Well, the maximum here would be $250.

COLMES: And some would say he shouldn't make any money, because look what he's done. And he's making money. He's in prison. You're giving him an opportunity to — I'll use the word again — capitalize based on his circumstance.

PAGE: If he were in a prison industry earning pennies an hour, he'd be allowed to keep the money. I don't think the issue is the money. I think the big issue is rehabilitation. Ninety-seven percent of the people in prison come out. We have diminished the amount of rehabilitation, and we've seen an increase in...

COLMES: How does art specifically rehabilitate them? I understand education. I understand reading books. Art specifically, how does that rehabilitate?

PAGE: Actually, my mother is an art teacher. What art does is give you a chance to look inside yourself, to pull out what matters to you and to learn how to express it.

HANNITY: All right. Miss — Miss "I Believe in Rehabilitation," here we have a four-time convicted rapist and murderer. When he gets — if he got out of jail would you like it if he moved in next to you?

PAGE: You have a man who's going to spend the rest of his natural life in prison.

HANNITY: I didn't ask you that. If he got out. You believe in rehabilitation; you just lectured us for 20 minutes about rehabilitation. If he rehabilitated himself, would you want him moving in next to you?

PAGE: If he rehabilitated himself, yes.

HANNITY: You believe that?

PAGE: In fact, at the Fortune — at the Fortune Society, many of our staff committed crimes.

HANNITY: Four-time convicted rapist and murderer, you'd have no problem after 10, 15, 20 years in jail, if he moved in next to you?

PAGE: He's doing a natural life sentence, and I think it's based on the crime.

HANNITY: You don't want him moving in next to you, do you?

PAGE: If he were rehabilitated?

HANNITY: You can rehabilitate a four-time rapist and murderer?

PAGE: I'll tell you the truth; I don't know. What I do know is it won't matter, because he's doing natural life. But what I also know, working at the Fortune Society, is that I've seen people turn their lives around.

HANNITY: I think it's possible. But you know what? I don't think society can risk it any more. There's too much recidivism, too many repeat offenders out there.

PAGE: But he won't — he will never be getting out. So that's not the issue in this case.

HANNITY: In his case — in his case we're lucky. Your characterization, though, of prisons is wrong. Couldn't be more wrong. You know what? These guys have cable TV. Some of them even have conjugal visits. They have work rooms so they can bulk up and beat up the guards. And they've got law libraries in cases where they can study and sue.

PAGE: We have max prisons where we put people in prison for 23 hours a day...

HANNITY: Good. Good.

PAGE: ... for years in violation of very basic principles of human rights.

HANNITY: Well, sorry.

PAGE: Where we take people with mental illnesses...

HANNITY: When you rape people...

PAGE: ... and put them into situations.

HANNITY: ... and you murder people, and you slaughter innocents, that's what's going to happen. And you know something?

PAGE: Sean.

HANNITY: There's one word you've forgotten. Wait a second. Miss...

PAGE: We are great at punishment. Where are we on prevention?


PAGE: No, wait. If 97 percent...

HANNITY: No, we're not good enough on punishment.

PAGE: Let me finish. If 97 percent of the people who come out of prison get out and recidivism rates are higher and we've knocked out college and we've knocked out drug treatment...

HANNITY: Joanne, we have contract (ph) college. That's a myth.

PAGE: ... you will see more crime and you should be opposed to that.

HANNITY: There's one word in this rehabilitation you forgot. It's called deterrent. And a harsh punishment, a harsh sentence — excuse me. Let me finish. Let me finish.

PAGE: Sean, we incarcerate more people than any country in the world.

HANNITY: Miss Liberal — Miss Liberal, let me explain something. You make prison a miserable place.

PAGE: We do it. We do a brilliant job. We do nothing about bringing people home safely.

HANNITY: The hope is — these guys, you're giving them weight rooms, conjugal visits, the finest dental care.

PAGE: We give them 23 hours a day.

HANNITY: The finest dental care and medical care that money can buy.

PAGE: If you wish to spend some time in a prison, you might change your tune.

HANNITY: It's great food. It's their turf.

PAGE: I would do anything...

HANNITY: Do they deserve a weight room? Do they deserve tennis courts, basketball courts in some instances?

PAGE: I think they do deserve rehabilitation. And if I were put in the situation of looking at the way they do time, I would be appalled because those are terrible conditions.

HANNITY: We're talking about the worst scum in society. We're talking about murderers, rapists, pedophiles, those that have no...

PAGE: Sixty percent of the people doing prison time are there for nonviolent offenses.

HANNITY: Can you let me finish? When you are talking about the dregs of society this way, let me tell you something. We need to punish them and keep them in jail and never let them out. And if you don't want to get along with society when you're out the first time, you don't deserve to be out.

PAGE: It's 97 percent of the people inside are coming out. You should care about rehabilitation.

HANNITY: Do you believe in conjugal visits? Should they be allowed to have sex when they're in prison?

PAGE: I believe...

HANNITY: Do you believe in conjugal visits?

PAGE: Yes.

HANNITY: Checkmate.

COLMES: Wait a minute, they should have cable TV.

HANNITY: Checkmate. Just if they watch “Hannity & Colmes” on TV. It's cable TV. COLMES: Come on.

PAGE: I think what you should believe in is prevention.

COLMES: Thank you very much.

HANNITY: Conjugal visits. Conjugal visits.

PAGE: Rehabilitation and prevention.

COLMES: Got all that stuff from watching cable.

HANNITY: Unbelievable.

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