Sister Helen Prejean, author, Dead Man Walking – These straight-from-the-gut writings by incarcerated women will break your heart and put it back together again. Their words – powerful, poignant, inspiring and unimaginably painful – are sure to become a classic in the growing body of prison literature. As the ‘inside’ writers change in the course of putting pen to paper, readers too will grow in empathy and outrage at their collective plights.

*    *    *

Madeleine May Kunin, former Governor of Vermont – Incarcerated women’s writings take us to places most of us have never been–the rooms where addicts live, the spaces where despair prevails. Yet, by writing about their lives, a glint of hope shines through.  They want to improve their lives, they want to be seen and heard.  By communicating with us and with one another, they are starting to connect with a better life.

*    *    *

Michelle Alexander, legal scholar and author, The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Color-BlindnessYou cannot read these stories and hear these women’s voices without feeling your heart open.  It is only possible to remain closed, indifferent, and callous to those we think of as criminals or prisoners if we fail to hear them, listening not just from the head but also from the heart. These are radical, revolutionary voices because they dare us to do what society insists we must not:  listen to and care about those who have been cast out and locked away.  If we pause long enough with these voices and stories, we just might find the seeds of their liberation and our own.

*    *    *

Joan Chittister, OSB, author, Following the Path: The Search for a Life of Passion, Purpose, and JoyEveryone is imprisoned by something in life but most of us don’t realize it. This book is about those who do. It takes the reader inside the prison system, yes, but more than that it takes us into the mind and hearts of women prisoners who are struggling to leave one world in order to become responsible parts of another one. It is about the journey through truth to wholeness. By all means, we should all read this book. Who knows? We may learn as much about ourselves here as we learn about them.

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Margaret Wolff, author, In Sweet Company: Conversations With Extraordinary Women About Living the Spiritual Life
Gritty, graphic accounts of women struggling to find value in their mistakes, to honor their limitations, to master the self-limiting thoughts and negative emotions that keep everyone of us bound. These women do the hard work that transformation demands: They take responsibility for their mistakes. They lay themselves at the feet of the Divine Compassion. They embrace their wounds and make them sacred. Then they write the lives they try to live.

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Stephanie S. Covington, Ph.D., co-director, Center for Gender and Justice, La Jolla, California – With compassion, empathy and respect, editors Bartlett and Redmond introduce us to the most invisible women in America: those incarcerated in our prisons. This poignant portrayal illuminates the complexity of their lives beyond their crimes. The power of their words inspires and pains us. This compelling account of life “inside” needs to inform our gender-responsive policies and practices for imprisoned women going forward.

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Ellen M. Barry,  Executive Director, Insight Prison Project This book is a revelation…a remarkable collection of writings by women behind bars who speak with breathtaking honesty, deep pain, surprising humor and hard-won self knowledge, women who write about surviving unspeakable abuse, separation from their children, the pain of incarceration, and the longing for freedom. Sarah Bartlett and Marybeth Redmond have brought together the soul-revealing writings of a group of women with whom you may feel you have nothing in common. Yet, if you listen to these women tell their stories, in their own voices, you will find that they speak of universal fears, hopes and dreams. Through the power of words, they articulate the universal truths that we can all relate to.

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Andrew Pallito, Commissioner, Vermont Department of Corrections – Hearing incarcerated women’s stories allows us to put judgment aside, and appreciate fully their histories, experiences and attitudes. writing inside VT is a vital part of creating programs and avenues that help incarcerated women reset their lives and return to communities as productive citizens.

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Elizabeth Gaynes, J.D., Executive Director, The Osborne Association, Bronx, NY – In our work with children of incarcerated parents, we find the greatest barrier to maintaining and strengthening relationships with their mothers is the pervasive belief that these women have little to offer, and that children are better off without them. Through Redmond and Bartlett’s work, we hear the truth – that by explaining and not excusing the behavior that led them to prison, and by sharing the insight they gain about themselves as women and as parents, they can give their children the unconditional and fully expressed love that all children need. This is a message that is important for their children’s caregivers, and the judges, child welfare authorities, and prison officials who determine whether and how their relationships with their children will be sustained.

*     *     *

Sister Elaine Roulet, Founder, Children’s Center at Bedford Hills Correctional Facility, New York – Perhaps the greatest gift for a woman in prison is the power to leap through the bars by writing from her heart, to herself as well as to the free world. Her words and thoughts become her first taste of freedom. This book will help us understand and support these incarcerated women who made poor decisions, yet are good people growing in compassion and love through writing.

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