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Mountjoy inmates find mainline to literary notoriety

February 16, 2011

By Staff Reporter

By Andrew Bushe

DUBLIN — An American swinging 1960s stage star, Marsha Hunt, this week will launch a collection of stories by prisoners in Mountjoy Jail, where she has been writer in residence since last October.

The former lover of the Rolling Stone’s Mick Jagger and star of "Hair," which became notorious for its nudity, has been teaching 23 criminals to write in three workshops.

Mountjoy is the country’s biggest jail and many of the 630 inmates have drug problems.

Hunt, who’s 53 and moved to Ireland four years ago, lives in Wicklow with her partner, the film director Alan Gilsenan. She has brought together accounts by 17 prisoners of their stories of crime and addiction in "Junk Yard."

The book is due to be launched on Friday’s "Late Late Show," when a number of the prisoner authors will be given special parole to appear.

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Hunt says in her introduction that several of her students where obviously on heroin when they came to her early workshops.

"They were scratching and nodding, or slurring with that absent look in their eyes that I’d seen often enough when I was in the rock and roll business," she said.

Hunt, who has written five books, including an autobiography, encouraged the prisoners by bringing them candy, tobacco and other gifts. The candles from a birthday cake she brought in for one prisoner were stolen and used to heat heroin in the cells.

She told the workshops: "Some journalists and scriptwriters make money writing about prisons and the heroin addiction that is your daily life. If that’s what people want to read about, you lived it, you write it."

The book’s royalties will be shared among the prisoners after 10 percent is donated to a prison-visiting charity of the Society of St. Vincent de Paul.

Hunt is a daughter of a Philadelphia psychiatrist and studied at Berkeley during the 1960s anti-Vietnam riots. She got the part in "Hair" when she was 21.

Among those thanked in the credits for the book is Karis Jagger, her daughter, who is a film producer. Hunt was the inspiration for Jagger’s Rolling Stone’s hit Brown Sugar on the album "Sticky Fingers."

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