So I’ve become increasingly upset with myself for not keeping up with this website more often. This should be a vessel for me to practice my writing skills and I seem to have lost sight of my goals as a writer. In an attempt to end the laziness, I am going to challenge myself to thirty days of entries in a row. Yes, that’s right—thirty days in a row. I believe that if I accomplish this, I will have populated this site with more entries than the previous year combined.

I just finished reading Wally Lamb’s I Couldn’t Keep It To Myself: Testimonies from Our Imprisoned Sisters. For a few years now, Lamb has taught creative writing classes to the women of the York Correctional Institution in Niantic, Connecticut. I was intrigued about reading this book for several reasons, including: 1. The fact that I love Wally Lamb’s writing. For those of you who aren’t familiar with his novels, I would suggest She’s Come Undone and a rather super sized box of tissues. 2. The York Correctional Institution is right down the road from my future father-in-law’s bookstore. I’ve driven by the facility many times and have wondered what it must be like to live there. 3. Because of my work at a non-profit organization, I have constant contact with adult women who have been previously incarcerated and also with youth who may be headed towards prison in their future.

The stories in this book, all but one by the prisoners, are equally insightful and heart wrenching. Although the media always mentions the strong correlation between female prisoners and a history of childhood sexual abuse and domestic violence, it never truly hit me until I started reading these stories. Every single one of the women featured in I Couldn’t Keep It to Myself was a victim of rape or sexual abuse, usually by a stepfather, uncle, or other male family member. Almost all of them grew up and married abusive men; many others also dabbled in alcohol and drug abuse to ease the pain. 

What I found the most interesting is that while most people see prison as a punishment, the York Correctional Institution seems to provide the right amount of structure and a supportive enough atmosphere for these women to pick themselves up and get on with their lives. During their incarceration, many women spoke of their ability to earn a GED or Associates degree; the opportunity to tutor other prisoners or volunteer for rewarding community service; many others, through the encouragement of prison staff and their fellow inmates, drastically improved their self-esteem. 

While I hope that none of my young clients ever end up in the justice system, I also understand the difficulties of becoming an outstanding citizen when one lives around crime, drugs and overall neglect. I only hope that they find the type of support listed above through my program, or any other positive means possible.