New book for sale! I am pleased to announce the publication of Prison Writings. By publishing this book, the Urbanmonks Thinktank is proud to give a public voice to the lost voice of prisoners. While I was working with the Monday Night Poetry Workshop at Auburn Prison in upstate New York a few years ago, I met a very smart and thoughtful group of inmates. In this book, I hope to share their words and images with a larger audience.
Please support the Urbanmonks Thinktank by purchasing our books. This title, along with many others, is available for sale for $6.95 on the store page.
Prisons are much more complicated places than they seem to those on the outside. Prisons are worlds unto themselves, with good people and bad people, moments of joy and moments of sadness.
I went to teach in prisons because I believe in redemption, I believe in forgiveness, I believe in healing.
A prison classroom is an amazing place. As a teacher, I have never felt as appreciated as I have in a prison classroom. These students are grateful for anyone who takes the time to come behind the walls and treat them like normal people.
Many people assume that prisoners are animals. That they are pure evil locked away until they die. While there are prisoners who may fit this description, the ones I have dealt with in the prison classroom could not be further from this assumption. The prison classroom was a place of mutual support, appreciation, redemption and growth.
Finding your way to prison is not like we might imagine. These people are not heartless lifetime criminals. Many made one poor decision. I often relay this story of one of my former math students who told me about how he came to be locked up for fifteen years. He was nineteen and home in the Bronx from his first semester at college. While home his sister told him that their father sexually abused her when she was a young girl. He flipped out. He grabbed a baseball bat and beat his dad. His dad ended up dying and now he is in jail for murder.
Some of these guys are truly remarkable, because they have decided to be a positive force in a place that can be one of the most depressing locales in the world.
I began by teaching math and then I moved over to the Monday Night Poetry workshop. That workshop, founded over a dozen years ago by inmate Jalil Muntaqin and civilian Pat Schwartz is a very special scene. The general flow of the workshop is that we take turns coming to the front of class reciting our poems. Many of the poems in this collection are meant to be performed aloud. I encourage you to read them aloud and picture yourself in a prison classroom at Auburn Prison.