Tuesday, May 9, 2017

Puttin' It Out There

Dear Deputy Wardens --

As directors of separate units at the Arizona State Prison Complex -- Tucson Unit, you know the importance of providing inmates with meaningful opportunities to learn and to improve their prospects of success after they are released. One of the foundations of success outside prison walls is the ability to understand emotions and to be able to communicate effectively. This is a life-long undertaking for all of us, but is especially important for inmates, who, very likely, have been the victims of some form of trauma: physical, emotional, psychological, or economic. Inmates over-represent marginalized Americans in that they are more likely to be black, brown, poor, drug-addicted, victims of violence, or mentally ill. Simply put, they need work on expressing themselves more than most. In the creative writing workshops, inmates follow the need to express themselves into some dark places. You might be surprised how many of them write about parents and the need to understand what went wrong with how they were raised. Beyond parents, there are the gangs, the failures at school, work, love, and, of course, the stupid mistakes and bad decisions. Most of them want, deeply, to better themselves. I see them wanting to get "complete," to move on into a future that might be different from the past that landed them in prison. Writing with a group of other men can be a powerful catalyst to become aware of both where they are and where they want to go. While not overtly a therapeutic practice, writing can be a vehicle to help inmates imagine a life beyond the one they have lived so far. Yes, it's highly unlikely that inmates will become professional creative writers. That said, the skills they develop can make the likelihood that they will be able to focus, learn, and persevere in other vocational training. Now, the men have to want to do this, and not many, in a larger context, do. The men who show up are rare in that way. It takes real courage to face one's demons, but the benefits might be beyond measure. It is for these reasons that I ask for your support in opening new workshops in other units at the Tucson Complex.


A Volunteer

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