real security


They who can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety. – Benjamin Franklin

Education is our only political safety. Outside of this ark all is deluge. – Horace Mann

Our obsession with protecting ourselves makes us less safe. – Eve Ensler

We live in uncertain times. That’s all we can be certain about, really. And during uncertain times, we experience fear enough to cause us to put up walls and shut things out in an effort to feel more safe. Of course, these kinds of walls make creating connections difficult, make creating art difficult.  In group, we asked ourselves: “What is safe? What does it feel like? What threatens our safety? What do we hold out or hold in?”

We illustrated images of our own safe spaces and wrote on the concept of safety. Thankfully, the writers in our circle did not shut themselves in or each other out. Within the safety of the circle, we were able share our words and the kindness of witnessing silence. Their words, freely and safely offered, are below. 


At a certain level we all know that yelling cannot be stopped with yelling. Fighting is only ceased when those at odds lay their weapons down completely. Security is not achieved by locking someone away behind cement walls. No color, no voices to save the mind. Security makes a madness of mankind.

I remember helping at a daycare. Heavy in my late pregnancy. Across the room, a small boy held a tonka truck tightly in his hand. Waiting to strike it over the head of another boy in front of him. I was too slow to get up and stop him. Yelling would not have saved the day. I did not think but to say, Aba Yo-Yo. A childhood tale rose to my lips and I told the story of the dancing giant. The tonka truck hit the floor as all came around to listen. Continue reading

in the woods

path into the woods

The objective is a voice in direct contact with emotional impulse,
shaped by the intellect but not inhibited by it. – Kristin Linklater

No one can imitate when you write of the particular, because no others have experience exactly the same thing.  – Goethe

Voice is called forth by resonance … – Carol Gilligan

I believe in the strength of one voice to save another’s life. – Marcella Allison

A woman needs to tell her own story, to tell the bloody version of the fairy tale. – Louise Erdrich

When it comes to prison, there are ways in and there are ways out. The former seems obvious and, mostly, so does the latter. But despite the political popularity of prison issues, there are still those that say, You do the crime, you do the time. But there is nothing obvious about either.

When we come together to write, it quickly becomes clear that the path the prison is a complex confluence of events. Any sense of freedom a single writer experiences is her path out. He or she doesn’t have to leave in order to leave, in order to make sense of his or her story and free herself from it even if that story is how he or she got to prison.

Below, you will hear the stories of several writers: how they got to prison and how they are slowly working toward get out of their own “concrete forest.”

My First Continue reading

all possible change

Each new day offers possibilities and promises that were never seen before.  – John O’Donohue, Anam Cara

How strange that the nature of life is change, yet the nature of human beings is to resist change. And how ironic that the difficult times we fear might ruin us are the very ones that can break us open and help us blossom into who we were meant to be.  –Elizabeth Lesser

I was numb, but it was from not knowing just what this new life would hold for me. – Jamaica Kincaid

In the spring, we find joy in change. The crocuses come up from the ground with no particular urgency. The leaves open when they are built to. Everything comes in its own time and we are grateful for it. At CRCF, writers write and ask themselves about change. They want to change themselves and their lives. In writing, talk about taking responsibility in order to effect the change they want to see in themselves.

What does it take to change? It takes many things: inner strength, guidance, safety. In their experience of prison, sometimes not all change is good. If there are cultural shifts, the writers hope that they will bring more therapeutic and wholistic support. They hope it will  help them toward rehabilitation so they have the resources they need to grow and change.

Recently, writers have been reporting the opposite. Rather than greater support, they get less. Rather than more respect, they get less. In moments where they are at their lowest, they hope for, ask for help and get anything from a helping hand to discipline or even a cruel remark. This spring, while things green and change on the outside, things stay harsh and cold on the inside and our writers lack the space and support they need to grow.

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the coming winter

Life is a constant Advent season: we are continually waiting to become, to discover, to complete, to fulfill. Hope, struggle, fear, expectation and fulfillment are all part of our Advent experience.

As the winter approaches, the writers in CRCF feel the changes they can’t see. Days get shorter and colder, we start to imagine a blanket of snow on the bare trees, and guess when the first flake will fall. Because we can all go outside and experience the change firsthand. Our guesses are based in a physical knowledge and what our senses ring when we step into a certain shade of gray, a certain temperature drop. We know by how the air smells that snow will come. 

Our writers are left to imagine this. They remember in this. And that is what we asked them to do last week in our writing group. We said, “What do you think of when you hear the word ‘winter’?” What followed was a flood of images and memories of everything they remember. Below, you’ll find a handful of these memories.


When I hear the word “Winter” the first thing that comes to my mind is snow. The white beautiful layer that covers not only our ground but up above as well, for our rooftops and tree branches also receive a beautiful layer of the shining white snow. I also think of the refreshing brisk air we get that opens our lungs every time we step outside our doors, the ways it whisks through our hair, hits our cheeks and generates in through our nose and mouth is literally breath-taking at times but also refreshing all the same. Which then leads to remind me of my love for winter even more, bringing me back through my childhood and to adulthood as well. I remember rushing my mom to help me get me ready to go outside so I could make my family of snowmen in our front lawn for everyone to see, along with my snow angels that were resting next to me. As I remember these days , it just goes to show that some traditions never change or go. For everyone winter that comes, I’m now the mom who’s rushing herself to get the kids ready to run out the door. One thing I do that I believe must always come next is just before the kids come back in, I have them some hot cocoa with fluff or marshmallows to add in. Winter to me is the joy that it brings which is often forgotten by those that decline to enjoy this time as it’s here for just a bit because once it’s gone that beauty goes away. Waiting to come back next winter day!


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defining survival

At the most basic level the need to trust implies one basic fact: you’re vulnerable. The ability to satisfy your needs or obtain the outcomes you desire is not entirely under your control. – David DeSteno

The writers we work with define themselves, consistently, as survivors. According to the American Jail Association,

“Women entering jails are much more likely to have experienced poverty, intimate partner violence, sexual abuse, and/or other forms of victimization often linked to their offending behavior. (

In our writing this week, we wrote reflections on our experiences of past abuse. We don’t often ask such pointed questions or ask writers to speak directly about trauma in their pasts. The purpose of this work was to 1) to tell and retell our stories, offering multiple viewpoints from our own individual perspectives. Essentially, what we knew then versus what we know now. And 2) to chart our narratives from something done to us to what we do next, from victim to survivor, from here to now and how incarceration weaves into and/or reinforces an abusive narrative. How does one feel human even if treated inhumanely?  Continue reading