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.

grateful days

VI holiday card

artwork by assistant victoria irwin from 11/19/15 group

We have so much to be thankful for, even though it may not always appear thus. Both inside and out, for instance, this year has brought an abundance of support for writing inside VT.

Our first-ever individual appeal has almost hit its target of $6000 toward our annual operating expenses, the balance of which will be sought in grants. We are so very grateful for your belief in our work and your financial support to continue it into our seventh year.

We have added an advisory board of seven wise and thoughtful women who bring a breadth and depth of experience and passion to guiding us forward.

We have increased our facilitation team by two assistants and a guest facilitator.

Most of all, we have managed to continue to hold weekly writing groups inside Chittenden Regional Correctional Facility in South Burlington, VT — despite a hiatus in funding support and several personal issues that have taken some of us out of the picture for periods of time this fall.

Inside, the inmates have continued to produce soul-searching writing and artwork; and are even contemplating a new book of their work. It seems everywhere leaders are emerging and creativity is blossoming.

May the coming year bring its own abundance and unity to you, in your heart, your life, your work and your world community.

courage and bravery

source unknown

source unknown

Last night, our group exhibited an extraordinary breadth and depth of courage and bravery. Writing to a variety of prompts affirmed that women at Chittenden Regional Correctional Facility value this weekly writing opportunity as a safe haven; a place to explore who they are inside; to share with, learn from and support one another. They value the lack of judgment and the mantle of inclusivity woven with our practices, our agreements, our words.

There were so many powerful writings created in a mere 15 minutes that I have decided to post several of them over the coming days. I am sure you will agree that these women have more courage and more bravery than most of us on the outside.

I have found over the years that my writing has more courage than I do.’ – Linda Hogan

Oh, how brave my words are! My words will march to war, my words will protest the same. My words reach out to people I have never met and say, “Hey! You really want to read this story!” My words will show a mirror to people who never see themselves. My words will lift hopes. My words will crush spirits.

It’s true, what they say: the pen is mightier than the sword. But! But . . . MY pen? How can someone so meek write a lion’s roar, a cacophony, an avalanche of words to change the hearts and minds of others? I’m not that brave! I shake just thinking of submitting my work to a publisher. I had a two-hour panic attack when I submitted my last novel.

But, oh, my words have courage. I can show the world how they are slip-sliding down a road which will lead onto to ruin, ruin they are too stupid and ignorant to see the pattern of, writ large in recent history. I can show the world that the pendulum, once it has swung in one direction, will inevitably swing the other; and then what destruction will these blind sowers reap?

But . . . Oh, my words have courage! Hemingway said, ‘sit down at a typewriter and open a vein’ – and he was right.

My words, my words – they strip me bare. They make more of an exhibition of my soul than Gypsy Rose Lee ever showed on a stage. My heart, my soul, laid bare, made naked; silly and somewhat obscene, like an overdone chicken splayed open in a roasting pan. So very naked, my skin falls away and shows the world my soul – oh, yes, my words have much more courage than I do.


‘learning to love myself . . .’

What a powerful prompt from last night’s writing circle inside! It doesn’t take many words to convey a huge journey. Read what one woman shared of her own painful story:


When I was young, I fell in love. But that time it wasn’t myself. It was a horrible drug. Its name was Oxy80. I had started going downhill ‘til I hit rock bottom. Oh, man, did that hurt! I lost everything, including myself. But with help, support and time, I found myself again. Now I am still young and I have fallen in love again. And guess what? It was myself who I had fallen in love with. I am now a mother of two boys. I’m caring, respectful, loving, faithful, fun, outgoing, understanding and I never get enough sleep. But I would never trade it for anything, because I now love myself!

–       TG