college education in prison

It’s happening. Here. Now. The very work that Meg and Sarah proposed over two years ago. The very work that many colleges and universities around the country as well as the state of Vermont have talked about, mulled over, studied for, planned. The very work that required a consortium to bring to reality.

University of Vermont is taking the lead with one of our advisory group members. She needed to step down from helping us in order to do this. Go, Kathy Fox! And go, women inside Chittenden Regional Correctional Facility currently studying Justice within a rigorous college curriculum.

3 milestones

CHSVT graduation by Marybeth Redmond

This week, we witnessed one of our long-term ‘inside’ writers graduate from the Community High School of Vermont!  Seated atop the sanctuary of the Unitarian Universalist Church in Burlington, TD “turned the tassel” of her mortarboard and officially earned her GED after many years of diligent work.  Family and friends overflowed with words of pride and congratulations.  CHSVT staff planned the graduation in an illustrious location beyond the confines of Chittenden Regional Correctional Facility, so as to create an indelible memory for TD about this momentous achievement.

Next, we hosted our semi-annual “Read-Around” event at the Chittenden facility this past Thursday evening.  Within a sacred circle of 50 seated inside the prison visiting room, 17 women-writers read their poetry and prose to the amazement of listeners.  Our generous writinginsideVT benefactors attended for the first-time ever!  It was a stunning evening…raw, real, emotional, insightful…each guest leaving deeply touched.  The women-writers were buoyed to have their words “find good ears” among so many supportive folks.

Finally this week, Commissioner of Corrections Andy Pallito announced the appointment of Bob Arnell as superintendent of the Chittenden facility.  Might I say that Sarah and I are pinching ourselves?!  Superintendent Arnell took over as interim leader of a chaotic and troublesome facility last April.  In spite of early criticisms of many program providers, he saw us as collaborators and forged strong relationships with us, allowing us to be his ‘eyes and ears’ within the facility.  Needless to say, there is still much work to be accomplished as Superintendent Arnell would readily admit.  Yet the women’s prison facility seems headed in a more holistic, gender-responsive, trauma-informed direction–way to go!