In the pages of “Life Lines,” these women are not inmates, they are writers. Though so often describing how the system – and sometimes one’s own regrets – can reduce a whole human to “a chocolate drop so small/not even a butterfly can taste it,” readers will surely experience the inverse: expansive, full-bodied, unique, necessary voices. Women who, as Whitman said, contain multitudes. This collection is a lyrical movement, built on the tenants of art, education and advocacy. The women in “Life Lines” begin to shape a possible future – one that embraces restorative practices over our failing system of punishment. They restore my hope. 

  • Caits Meissner, Director, Prison and Justice Writing Program, PEN America, NY

Here is another remarkable book from writinginsideVT. It is overflowing with the creativity and voices of the most invisible women in our society: women in prison. Despite the sadness, fear, pain, and loss that they convey, their written words are a testament to the resilience of women’s spirit.  

  • Stephanie S. Covington, Ph.D., Co-director, Center for Gender and Justice, La Jolla, CA

Forty-three years in the justice system, as prosecutor, defense attorney and judge, have taught me that events beyond their control incarcerate women: childhood neglect; sexual, physical and emotional abuse; and their inevitable sequelae – substance abuse and mental health issues.  Unaddressed, the feelings from these traumatic events will only fester, cause more pain, then recidivism. Art and writing have repeatedly proven to be a powerful and curative outlet for these feelings.  Writing gives them voice when no one speaks for them; empowers them to cast away the pain, anger and emotional restraints; and allows us to know their feelings inside, getting out, and outside. Their expression, and our acceptance of it, give life to the ‘restoration’ in restorative justice. Read these poems and understand the pain, fear and anger that is at their heart.

  • Hon. Joseph H. Field, Active Retired Judge, Maine District Court

The criminal justice system spends a great deal of time trying to establish the ‘otherness’ of people. Yet, every person has a story to tell. These writings show our common humanity and the need to hear all voices. 

  • Robert L. Sand, Director, Center for Justice Reform, VT Law School; former Windsor County State’s Attorney

“LIFE LINES: Re-Writing Lives from Inside Out” is a must-read for those interested in the psychological dynamics of women’s incarceration and reentry, as seen from the inside out. Fruit of a ten-year writing program writinginsideVT has held in Vermont’s only prison for women, these poems beautifully capture the experience of incarcerated women trying to make sense of their past choices and daring to make new ones. Difficult, often brutally honest, funny, remorseful, grief-stricken, defiant, self-accusing and self-affirming, these poems explore the devastating hold of their addictions, the cycling nature of their incarceration, and the very real costs not only to themselves but to their families and other victims. The editors, Bianca Viñas, Sarah W. Bartlett, and Kassie Tibbott, have organized the book effectively around the themes of voice, loss, creativity, new patterns and hope, themes beautifully illustrated by Meg Reynolds.

  • Heather Tosteson, Ph.D. Publisher, Wising Up Press, GA; Co-Director, The Lasting Weight of Felony Listening Project

Expression and voice are so important to hear from those incarcerated in our Vermont prisons. This book celebrates the vital minds and hearts of those we often do not hear.

  • Bess O’Brien, director of award-winning documentaries “Coming Home” (about re-entry from prison) and “The Hungry Heart” (about addiction recovery), Kingdom County Productions, VT

Read excerpts from Life Lines