This past Thursday evening was our semi-annual reading inside the Chittenden Regional Correctional Facility where all incarcerated women in Vermont are housed. We had over 40 guests, at least half of them from the outside community. These included leaders in criminal justice reform, publicists, providers in re-entry programming, mentors to our writers, volunteers, DOC personnel, writing inside VT advisory board members and assistants, and friends.
The evening was nothing short of magical, in the words of one first-time reading attendee. Feedback included so many supportive and surprised responses, like these:
Feelings of hope and words of self-love and acceptance are rising up for me; images of these women as only criminals are falling away. They are humans.
What a waste to lock away these minds, these hearts, these words! What is falling away from me is who I thought was in the room as opposed to who was really there.
I never even began to imagine a lot of the realness that was within these women. Maybe they aren’t so bad after all.
These women have been through such a journey. Perhaps the ideas that separate us are not so great after all.
I’m struck by how much beauty and wisdom there is in the readings tonight.
A particularly poignant moment occurred when one of our long-time writers spoke from her heart at the end of the evening. She thanked everyone for caring enough to come, to listen, to give the writers confidence that their stories, indeed their lives, matter. She composed a poem of gratitude on the spot which we anticipate will appear in local press within the week. Be sure to watch for the link! Continue reading