Would you be where you are in life without the books, art, music, and other culture that has changed you deeply?
These women in Pennsylvania are serving life sentences without the possibility of parole. In case we forgot that prisoners are human beings with a story, they sing a song in this TEDx video packed with so much emotional power that you can't help but see their souls shine through.
The arts can have a profound impact on a person.
Prison life can erode a soul (understatement of the year, surely) and programs like the following ones can do a little bit to keep a person growing. Here are a couple of those programs:
Shakespeare Behind Bars brings a new kind of introspection to inmates' lives through dramatic acting.
From their vision statement:
"Shakespeare Behind Bars was founded on the belief that all human beings are born inherently good. Although some convicted criminals have committed heinous crimes against other human beings, the inherent goodness still lives deep within them and can be called forth by immersing participants in the safety of a circle-of-trust and the creative process.
Within the circle-of-trust, Shakespeare Behind Bars seeks to transform inmate offenders from who they were when they committed their crimes, to who they are in the present moment, to who they wish to become.
Shakespeare Behind Bars offers participants the ability to hope and the courage to act despite their fear and the odds against them."
Inmates With Talent is a project and an upcoming documentary about helping inmates tap into their gifts for entertaining.
The project started when comedian and producer Johnny Collins heard about Tim Allen's story (he was locked up for five years for drug trafficking) and how he credited standup comedy with saving his life. Collins got the idea to go to various prisons and try to find the next Tim Allen.
It helps one to see themselves making a new life when they can find other strengths, possibilities, and joy in positive efforts.
And it's narrated by one of the best "Law & Order: SVU" cast members, Ice-T.
Pls consider supporting the film @InmatesWTalent. There's only 13 days to go in their @kickstarter campaign https://t.co/Bhs5pulHPt#prisons
— Brian Trautman (@BriTraut) November 2, 2014
Now, one note:
None of these inmates are claiming to be perfect angels.
Some people may proclaim: "Inmates are serving time for a reason. Who cares what helps them grow?" Sure — if incarceration were only about punishment. But it's also about rehabilitation and sending out citizens who are better able to survive in society without returning to crime.
The road to redemption is tricky, and not everyone can make it. But shouldn't they have a chance?