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Report: Ex-bishop Heather Cook to advocate for female inmates, addicts after release from prison

Report: Ex-bishop Heather Cook to advocate for female inmates, addicts after release from prison
Former Episcopal Bishop Heather Cook, who pleaded guilty in the drunken-driving hit-and-run death of cyclist Thomas Palermo, is led from the courtroom after receiving a seven-year sentence Oct. 27, 2015. (Amy Davis / TNS)

Former Episcopalian Pastor Heather Cook, who was released from prison Tuesday, said in a new interview that she plans to advocate for women in prison and for those recovering from addiction.

Cook — the first female bishop in the Diocese of Maryland — was convicted of vehicular manslaughter and driving under the influence after she struck and killed cyclist Thomas Palermo in 2014.

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She served a little over half her seven-year sentence and will be on supervised parole and probation for five years.

In an interview with Religion News Services before her release from prison Tuesday, Cook said she will advocate for female prisoners and people who struggle with addiction as an alternative to ministry. She was stripped of her title in the Episcopal Church and is no longer a priest or bishop.

The report says she led “S.O.B.E.R. October” events while in prison.

“This system is so bleak and cold that we do that for one another, that when one is weak, another is strong,” Cook said of life in prison.

She added that she “was absolutely overwhelmed with shame and grief and hopelessness” over Palermo’s death.

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