Women Writers Expose Hidden Voice of Criminal Justice Movement

Posted by on May 30, 2003

Books Through Bars is co-sponsoring this event. Please spread the word.

Women Writers Expose the Hidden Voices of the Criminal Justice and Anti-Death Penalty Movements
June 19th
Friends Center, 1501 Cherry Street, Philadelphia, PA 19102

Sponsored by: The American Friends Service Committe (AFSC), Criminal Justice Program
Co-Sponsored by: Wooden Shoe Books, Books Through Bars, Bread & Roses, Prisoner Visitation and Support and the AFSC’s Third World Coalition and National Women’s Program
For More Information Contact Brooke Matschek, 215-241-7137,bmatschek@afsc.org

Judith Trustone, author Celling America’s Soul; Stories of Torture and Transformation in Our Prisons
Celling America’s Soul, is a journey into Shadow America where the Thrownaway People, the addicted, the impoverished, the mentally ill, and the retarded are warehoused in villages of the damned. Join Judith Trustone, a white middle-class Creative Writing teacher as she encounters first-hand the brutality and injustice of America’s penal system, a throwback from the Middle Ages, at Graterford Prison in Pennsylvania. The fifth largest maximum security prison in the country, it is considered one of the toughest in the country with 3,300 inmates and 1,200 staff.

Not just an expose’ of state-sanctioned brutality, this book also celebrates the creative spirits of seven prisoners, some of them innocent, who’ve managed to transform themselves despite their environment. Their writing, art and poetry demonstrates the incredible loss of human potential in a corrupt and expensive system that punishes rather than rehabilitates, putting our communities at even greater risk in these days of homeland insecurity. This book puts human faces on “criminals.” Their stories are not easy to read, though their transformations are inspiring.

Rachel King, author Don’t Kill in Our Names; Families of Murder Victims Speak Out Against the Death Penalty
Could you forgive the murderer of your husband? Your mother? Your son? Families of murder victims are often ardent and very public supporters of the death penalty. But the people whose stories appear in this book have chosen instead to forgive their loved ones’ murderers. They have formed a nationwide group, Murder Victims’ Families for Reconciliation (MVFR), to oppose the death penalty.

MVFR members are often treated as either saints or lunatics, but the truth is that they are neither. They are ordinary people who have responded to an extraordinary and devastating tragedy with courage and faith, choosing reconciliation over retributions, healing over hatred. Believing that the death penalty is a form of social violence that only repeats and perpetuates the violence that claimed their loved ones’ lives, they hold out the hope of redemption even for those who have committed the most hideous crimes. “The main reason I oppose the death penalty is because it honors Susie’s life. She had a sweet and gentle spirit. I don’t want that spirit dishonored by having her death avenged with more violence.”
– Marietta Jaeger Lane, whose 7-year old daughter Susie was kidnapped and murdered in 1973.

Also featured…
Readings from Wall Tappings: An Anthology of Writings by Women Prisoners, edited by Judith Scheffler.

Speaking from settings as diverse as a Roman prison cell in 203 ad, the labor camps of Siberia in the 1930s, and a Philippines prison in the 1980s, the writers in this groundbreaking collection explore the emotional experience of prison life and discover the ways in which actual incarceration mirrors women’s traditional imprisonment within society. Contributors include Saint Perpetua, Lady Constance Lytton, Lolita Lebron, Assata Shakur, and Nawal El Sadaawi, as well as many unkown women prison writers.

In memoir, letters, diaries, essays, fiction, and poetry, these writers affirm the power of expression. They write to vindicate themselves, to strengthen their beliefs, to call out against prison deprivations, to celebrate relationships and solidarity with other women, and to comfort themselves and their children under the duress of separation. Their motivations provide the organizing themes of the book. However diverse their purposes may be, the writers “unite,” as Scheffler says, “in condemning an institution that labels them worthless and attempts to destroy their humanity in the name of justice.”

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