7: Women’s Biographies through Prison

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Four incarcerated women were involved in the project. They are each strong, kind and thoughtful and, like all of us, have flaws (Fine and Torre, 2006). After several years delivering prison education and working within the prison estate, we have learned not to judge or romanticise the women we work with. We understand that some people detained in prison have committed serious crimes. However, we approach our work with a strong sense of humanity, of seeing the humanity in all of us. We also approach our work from the standpoint that people, no matter who they are, should not be defined by the worst thing they have done in their lives. The Inside-Out programme focuses on mutual engagement, learning through dialogue and critical thinking. Inside-Out does not ‘research’ or objectify the inside students who participate in the programme and does not scrutinise their individual offences. All students are known only by a first name or chosen nickname and past offences – of inside or, for that matter, outside students – are not known to the class. Similarly, the Inside-Out Think Tank members that we write with here are serving diverse sentences for diverse offences, but the specifics of those offences are unimportant and not the focus of our work together.

Through a process of working and writing together, the women originally wrote their contributions as part of the ‘World Split Open’ creative writing project discussed in Chapter 6. However, we have continued to work together since, and during that time have been privy to their experiences within, journeys through, and for one of the women, out of the prison system.

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