Inmates share ‘mind-expanding’ life stories with CUH

Inmates+share+%27mind-expanding%27+life+stories+with+CUH

Teagan Waialeale

Inmates (from left to right) Earlily, Danni, and Melissa, with Prison Monologues director Patricia Clough (second from left), told stories to CUH students.

Chaminade University invited women from the Women’s Community Correctional Center as part of Prison Monologues to come and share their stories about the lives they have chosen to live and the consequences they are facing because of it.

Earlily, Melissa and Danni (the three inmates didn’t feel comfortable releasing their last names) delivered emotional pieces they wrote about their lives before and during prison to approximately 60 CUH students and staff on Wednesday, March 5, in the Loo Student Center.

“If you just sat down and had a conversation with them, you wouldn’t know they were an inmate,” said Dr. Janet Davison, assistant professor of Criminology and Criminal Justice at CUH. “But you know they’re marked off obviously with their prison uniform and they tell us they’re in prison, but they’re just like the rest of us, with just different histories and backgrounds.”

The Prison Monologues is a cognitive-based creative writing program, overseen by Patricia Clough, within the WCCC that helps inmates express themselves to inspire others what not to do. Each year, the creative writing program publishes its work in a book.

On March 5, the three women spoke to CUH from the heart.

Out of the three, Earlily had the opportunity to share at Chaminade before. She was comfortable and expressive with every story. She talked about the dreams she had for herself as a child, dreams of becoming a Frisbee champion, an honor student and a girl scout. She talked about how she wishes she could turn back the time and how painful those memories are.

Melissa, another inmate, didn’t communicate openly. She was shy and hesitant. She spoke softly, yet told the most vivid stories about doing drugs with her father and neglecting her little boy for drugs.

“You know it ain’t easy choosing right from wrong, sometimes I smile but mostly I frown … my world was torn apart in unmendable pieces,” Melissa read from her first written piece.

Danni is looking forward to getting out of prison in April. She was released twice before but was sent back to prison because she chose to be headstrong and do things on her own.

“I’ve never admitted that I had a problem, never admitted that I needed help, so that’s what I’m gonna do different,” Danni said in response to a question about her future. “I’m gonna be humble this time and ask for help and not be so strong headed and listen and trust.”

This time around Danni plans to leave prison and become more spiritually driven by “getting in touch with God” in hopes that it will change her and life and help her stay out of prison.

They each shared their own unique stories. They spoke of the choices they’ve made and how that has put them where they are today. They reflected on doing drugs, getting into accidents and being abused. The crowd sat engaged and focused on the speakers.

“The writing program is a place of healing,” Clough said. “Writing is a form of personal freedom.”

This year, the program ran a little differently. The inmates asked for five student volunteers to read stories they wrote alongside them to let them see what prison is like from an insiders point of view.

This is the fifth year that Prison Monologues has been presented at Chaminade. CUH’s Davison is in charge of the Criminal Justice Honor Society and asked the WCCC to let some inmates come and present their stories to the students.

After the event, students provided Davidson with feedback about the program and said the presentation was raw, emotional, sad and inspiring, but they left touched.

“There’s something about hearing each other read what another inmate has written about her life in prison that we found to be quite mind-opening, mind-expanding,” Clough said.