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

rising together

black and white portrait maya angelou

credit –

Maya Angelou was a force in literature, poetry, and culture. She embodied and expressed a shared sense of empowerment, lending her strength and words to help others rise out of struggle toward a greater sense of belonging and self-acceptance. In honor of her passing, we brought her poem Still I Rise inside to share with the women and to foster discussion on the impact of her writing and her life.

What followed was powerful. We shared what we knew about her, her quotes, favorite lines, what change she wrought. Most often, women would motion to their hearts and say things like, “She inspired me,” or “She was so strong.” Sometimes the power of a poem is not direct, its impact unclear. When we write, we may even suffer doubt that poems matter or do any healing work in this world. That was not the case here; not her work, not this poem.

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