The Beat Within

beat within

Check out this online and print publication – The Beat Within! It is their mission to:

…provide incarcerated youth with consistent opportunity to share their ideas and life experiences in a safe space that encourages literacy, self-expression, some critical thinking skills, and healthy, supportive relationships with adults and their community. Outside of the juvenile justice system, The Beat Within partners with community organizations and individuals to bring resources to youth both inside and outside of detention. We are committed to being an effective bridge between youth who are locked up and the community that aims to support their progress towards a healthy, non-violent, and productive life.

This current issue features poets from Champaign-Urbana that are behind bars at the Juvenile Detention Center.

You can find past issues in their archives.

letterThey also have this great letter project that is piloting.

Writing mentors will be matched with an adult incarcerated writer whose overall goal will be to foster better writing for publication through literary advice, fleshed out ideas, providing writing prompts, basic editing/ grammar education, etc.

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Happy Birthday Shakespeare!

In honor of Shakespeare’s birthday, why not watch a few (okay, a little more than a few, I couldn’t choose the best one!) videos about Shakespeare in prison. Videos below focus primarily on men, but here is where you can view Detroit area’s women behind bars’ experience with Shakespeare. In 2005, there was a documentary made on this subject called Shakespeare Behind Bars and a book in 2001: Trousnstine, Jean. Shakespeare Behind Bars: The Power of Drama in a Women’s Prison. St. Martin’s Press: New York, 2001.

The video below focuses on a program from Indiana Statue University. One of the participants has been in solitary confinement for 9 years and has been in the Shakespeare program for 7. My favorite piece about this, is that participants not only learn how to interpret Shakespeare’s plays so they are comprehensible, but rewrite the plays. The rewritten plays by the participants are then the version that is performed. One participant said that before joining the program, he was “on the border of loosing [his] mind.”

This next video is a promotional video for Kentucky’s Shakespeare Behind Bars Program is filled with pictures, statistics, and testimony. A couple key testimonials are: “SBB is about family and finding yourself. Without this support system I wouldn’t be who I am today.” and “By playing someone else, I have learned to be myself.” The most powerful statistic is at the end on recidivism; the national rate is 67%, Kentucky’s is 29.5%, and program’s is 6%.

Below is author, prisoner, and participant of Rehabilitation Through the Arts,  Intelligent Allah. You can find Allah’s first book, Lickin’ License here.

Below is an additional testimony for RTA from participant Shariza Terrell who makes connections between himself and other prisoners with characters from Shakespeare.

This last video is from the Shakespeare Prison Project that is associated with the University of Wisconsin-Parkside. 

[For photo credit, follow link in the photo.]

Imprisoned Writer Arthur Longworth featured in Seattle Times

Recently, the Seattle Times published an article called Writer’s World: Life Behind Bars. Journalist Jonathan Martin writes about Arthur Longworth, his life-long prison sentence (with many visits to solitary confinement), and his journey to becoming a writer.

Longworth became a writer at the age of 40, about 20 years after his entry into prison. In the article, he discribes his writing as “an effort to survive in an unforgiving environment.”

Why does Longworth write? In an interview with the “Inside” Prison Writing Bloghe says:

Other writers who have gone through similar experiences and recorded them.  It may be wishful thinking, but I believe that at some point in the future Americans will look back at this time (when so many of their fellow citizens were locked away in prisons, many of them sent there before they were even fully adults and sentenced to spend their entire lives there) and consider it a dark age. When that happens, I want my writing to be there (and the writing of others like me) so people don’t forget and allow this to happen again.

As a University Behind Bars student, Longworth is featured in this video:

Finding Lonworth’s writings:

Longworth’s short stories Wala Wala IMU and The Hole can be read through the PEN American Center. Both works have been given awards by PEN.

Here is a link to Longworth’s published work The Prison Diary of Arthur Longworth via WorldCat (there is only three libraries with the book).

The r.kv. r. y. quarterly literary journal published The Prison Diary of Arthur Longworth (I’m not sure if this edition is different than the published edition).