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Author Topic: Women Find Their Voice in Lincoln Prison Newsletter  (Read 4046 times)

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    • Illinois Prison Talk
Women Find Their Voice in Lincoln Prison Newsletter
« on: February 23, 2009, 07:15:38 PM »
Women find their voice in Lincoln prison newsletter

By Edith Brady-Lunny
eblunny@pantagraph.com


Within These Walls, a newsletter published six times a year by prison inmates, offers women a chance to hone their writing skills and share the stories that brought them to the facility. A staff of about ten women is responsible for gathering material and designing the 16-page publication. Similar newsletters are published at other prisons in Illinois.

For Sandra Brown, a current columnist for the Lincoln newsletter, writing is a source of expression and a way to connect with other women. Brown, of Chicago, has written several columns for the newsletter based on interviews she conducts with inmates. Before she came to prison, the 37-year-old wrote poetry.

“Writing has given me a sense of empowerment. As women, we are taught to be quiet about what we think and feel. This gives us a voice to express ourselves,” said Brown, who has 12 years left to serve on a 22-year sentence for murdering a woman during a dispute.

Jodi Serino, 42, is scheduled to leave the Lincoln prison in May when her 7-year term for being present during an armed robbery is completed. With the exception of her seven children ranging from 24 to 11 years old, there few things more important to Serino than writing. She sleeps with a pen next to her so she can take down any stray ideas that come to her at night.

“Writing gives me a sense of relief and healing. To not write hurts me. Before I came here, it was a hobby — now it’s a passion,” said Serino, formerly of Chicago.

Melody Hulett, warden over the prison’s 968 inmates, smiled as she and prison staff members Denise Brittain and Sherrin Fitzer listed to the inmates’ comments about the writing project.

“It enriches my work. To know that if we’ve touched one person, we’ve met our purpose. It’s inspiring to hear these great outcomes,” said Hulett, warden at Lincoln since January.

For Fitzer, staff advisor for the publication, there is satisfaction in seeing the women succeed at a talent they may not have realized they possessed. Brittain reads every edition of the newsletter and considers it a voice for the facility as well as the inmates.

Brown and Serino have taken their work outside the prison walls. Serino’s screenplay “Metamorphosis,” took first prize for drama in the PEN Prison Writing Center competition and Brown received a scholarship for non-traditional students from Ohio University. Brown receives college credits for her work on the prison newsletter and hopes to one day to teach at the school’s College Program for the Incarcerated.

In addition to the inmate prose, the prison newsletter contains information on health issues, word puzzles, and book reviews.

The writers for Within These Walls said the chance to work on the newsletter is central to their efforts to remain optimistic about a future outside the prison walls. For Serino, expression through the prison’s writing, art and theatre programs helped her realize that the time behind bars has been productive.

“It’s not the end. It’s the beginning. It’s an opportunity to redefine who you are. You don’t have to go back to the same place you came from,” said Serino.

Serino is not certain where that new place will be when she is released in several months, but it will be a place where she can write.

http://www.pantagraph.com/articles/2009/02/23/news/doc49a32ff0bd303107470859.txt
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