annual appeal

rise TD

art by TD

‘I rise to be a better me,’ CP,
wiVT participant

Like Maya Angelou, wiVT writers  at Chittenden Regional Correctional Facility rise from their pain, their fear, their history. Last month, 25 community guests witnessed their voices raised with determination:

They’re taken my true meaning,
the light that lives in me
eclipsed by ugly rhetoric …

I sit, I burn, I crumble.
Still, like dust, I rise.
I rise to be a better me …

Our writers welcome the weekly space for engagement, reflection, comfort, healing. Their writing transforms personal suffering into shared experience. As they make meaning of their lives, they learn skills — accountability, respect, confidence — that help re-entry and re-integration into their communities upon release. By sharing their stories, they help you understand who they are, how prison impacts their lives — and how you impact them.


Any amount you can give is greatly appreciated toward our goal
of $12,000 and is fully tax-deductible.
Please make your check payable to SBCJC – wiVT
19 Gregory Drive, South Burlington, VT 05403
  • weekly skill- and community-building
  • community education via our writers’ blog
  • publication of participant work and public readings
  • team training for program integrity and uniqueness
  • encouragement to each writer to rise into their best self
With heartfelt thanks to ALL who support our mission to ‘bring incarcerated women’s words from inside – out.’
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Sarah W. Bartlett, MA, Founding Co-Director

Meghan Reynolds, MFA, Co-Director

Melissa Pasanen, Kristin Brownlow, Kassie Tibbott, Kathryn Baudreau, Tobe Zalinger, Dorsey Naylor, program assistants.

P.S. This year we started two ‘writing outside’ groups for justice-involved women in South Burlington and Randolph. W VT College of Fine Arts intern has devoted the fall to gathering writings from the past few years for LIFELINES, which we plan to publish in 2018 . Thank you, Bianca!! Stay tuned for publication details as they unfold.

Thanks to generous individual support from you, our donors; grants from Bari and Peter Dreissigacker, The Richard E. and Deborah L.Tarrant Foundation, Ben & Jerry’s Foundation, Inc. and Serena Foundation; and our home organization, South Burlington Community Justice Center (SB CJC), we are able to continue providing this unique program to Vermont’s incarcerated women.

mirror image

cloud mirrored in a lake

A circle of women is a multifaceted mirror in which each sees herself reflected. What she sees of herself in the words and faces around her depends upon the capacity of each woman as mirror to be clear and compassionate.  What we see in ourselves, we can work on changing. –    Jean Shinoda Bolen, The Millionth Circle

Don’t limit yourself. Many people limit themselves to what they think they can do. You can go as far as your mind lets you. What you believe, remember, you can achieve.  – Mary Kay Ash

Each week, we ask the members of our group up to reflect on their experience in prison. In discussion and on the page, writers have an opportunity to hold a mirror up to their experience both within themselves and inside their units and cells. Our dialogue centers on the prison’s impact on their physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual well-being. Within the circle of our writing, notions, challenges, fears, and growth are affirmed.

Below, you will find the experience of one woman as she looks into the mirror. This reflection serves as a prelude to the continued conversation she has with herself and with us about the impact of prison on her sense of self.

The Looking Glass

Sometimes I think one of the hardest questions to answer is, in fact, what I see, in me, when I look at myself. Do I see my soul for what it is, or do I impress upon myself the ideals and principles of those around me? When I am not judging my complexion or searching my eyes for more than the shade of brown they always seem to be. A mere piece of glass and bend of light has captured me. I am helpless to restrain it. Only with the dark can you combat a mirror. We think of dark as a foe. But in it is where we feel what we have seen. I’ve heard that if you have never seen, then there is nothing to see. I don’t need to look on my face to know the curve of my lip, or the shape of my eyes. The complexity of sight is unaccomplished. It will never be mastered. Continue reading

cutting paths

path in woods

Walk as if you are kissing the Earth with your feet. – Thich Nhat Hanh

In the end, just three things matter:
How well we have lived
How well we have loved
How well we have learned to let go.
Jack Kornfield


Making change looks a lot like cutting paths. There are paths, trenches, river beds well worn and established that our minds run over and over, re-inscribing. These are cognitive landscapes that are well-explored and often sweet places to live or the only places to live, at least for a little while. If they weren’t, we would never have made them.

After a while these paths become dead ends, cul-de-sacs, you get the idea. You get stuck in the same old places, patterns, sometimes without knowing it. And, it is a lot easier to get stuck when you are forced to literally stay in one place. We started a mindfulness unit this month with the intent of expanding that repetitive space in the mind and between the walls. Continue reading

from my desolate soul

Credit: K Punkrock

In keeping with this week’s holiday, we wanted to post another Thanksgiving writing from one of the incarcerated women with whom we write weekly. Especially since this Thursday is one of very few in the year when we will not be writing together. TH’s writing invites you into her family with simple direct intimacy; and leaves you haunted with the harsh reality of the change a single year can bring to a family.

I remember last Thanksgiving . . .
            it was just our little family
            you, me, our five-year-old son.

Without much money, a feast was impossible
            So we had stuffing; you made pork chops,
            and all three of us filled our stomachs.

Trudging upstairs, little man exclaimed
            “Mom and Dad, that was great!
            My belly feels full!”

As we climbed to the top step
            we ushered him into the bathroom,
            bubbles piled in the tub.
            He jumped in, bubbles crashed and popped
            you and I snuck a look at each other, chuckling.

I knew we both thought that although we didn’t have much,
            we had each other. That was the miracle
            of Thanksgiving. To me, anyhow.

            The fact that our daily struggle culminated
            once a year into a day of reflection
            and gratefulness that we still
            held each other every night and
            we made it through another year.

This year, nothing remains . . . Continue reading


From this past week’s writing, another take on what the writer wants/does not want an other to see. This writing comes with a twist, however.

Your perception of me needs to shift, if ever so slight.

I must tell you, your view of me was definitely skewed.

However, that might possibly be my fault.

I hid who I am from you, and tucked it out of sight.

I did not trust myself or anyone else enough to let them see in.

Many apologies for my countless mistakes.

But, I will ONLY apologize just once, because we must move on.

I may have seemed flighty or foolish; but I am clever and calculating, always thinking, observing, analytical and maybe a little forgetful.

I seemed like I had many secrets and not the most honest.

Truth be told, I was! The secrets have been revealed and honestly? Well, I am ready to tell and hear it all. Continue reading