Posted in Uncategorized, tagged Activism and Outreach Through Theater, connecticut, dante, drama, ex-inmate, ex-offender, jail, niantic, play, prison, ron jenkins, shakespeare, theater, wesleyan, women's prison, York Correctional Institution in Niantic on February 25, 2012 |
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I’ve blogged about Mary Driscoll and OWLL, the nonprofit she set up to help ex-offenders break vicious cycles. Soon she will launch her play Generational Legacy, about what happens to children when mothers are imprisoned. People who had experienced prison helped her write it.
Because I am very interested in this and other ways that people use the arts to help prisoners turn their lives around, an article about using Dante and Shakespeare in a women’s prison caught my eye.
Joel Brown writes in the February 24 Boston Globe,
“Lynda Gardner, Saundra Duncan, and Deborah Ranger will give a reading of a new play at a Harvard University conference next week. A different kind of alma mater qualifies them for this appearance: York Correctional Institution in Niantic, Conn., a high-security state facility for female offenders.
“While behind bars at York, all three joined theater workshops with Wesleyan University professor Ron Jenkins and students from his Activism and Outreach Through Theater course. They got to know Shakespeare and Dante, and it changed their lives.
“ ‘I spent my first six months [in York] trying to figure out ways to kill myself, and the next four and a half years trying to see how much more I can live,’ says Gardner. …
“Saundra Duncan said, ‘When I looked at Dante and saw how he was in exile . . . I saw a lot of that situation in [myself].’ “
I especially liked this comment on the Inferno: “I’ve been in a lot of the circles of hell … It really isn’t about hell; it is about hope. Climbing out of those circles.’’
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Posted in Uncategorized, tagged arts, dade county, dance, ex-offender, florida, incarceration, job skills, Mary Driscoll, on with living and learning, OWLL, prison, prisoner, volunteer, warden, women's prison on October 3, 2011 |
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I believe that people must take responsibility for their actions, that crimes should have punishments, and that every effort should be made to protect society from danger. But I don’t think society is protected if the place of punishment makes a person who committed a crime more angry and hostile than when she did it.
That’s why I like to post about the many kinds of volunteers who work with inmates to turn their hearts to better purposes. It may not always work, but it seems worth trying.
A while back, I blogged about one friend who works with ex-offenders through an organization called OWLL (On With Living and Learning: Jobs Skills for the 21st Century).
Now another friend has written about being accepted into a volunteer program at a low-level women’s prison near her home. The way this friend writes about her orientation, I can see the whole thing.
“I had a letter telling me not to bring a cell phone, smoking paraphernalia, medications, or sharp objects, and not to wear tight clothing, open-toed shoes, dangly earrings, or anything green or orange. … About half the volunteers were people of color and half were white. About a quarter spoke to one another in Spanish. More than half were middle-aged or older. One woman was in a wheelchair. So, it was a pretty diverse group. … There was lots of impressive high-tech security. There are lots of things we’re not allowed to do, like buy things for the inmates, or bring them messages. Or–and the volunteer handbook says this explicitly–help them escape or cover up an escape attempt.” (!)
Are touchy-feely prison programs all too naïve? Well, a highly skeptical prison warden at a Florida prison where there is a dance program admits that he came to see the benefit of women inmates having more-positive ways of expressing themselves:
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