Thursday evening, Lyn Jones and I delivered the print and oral anthologies of their writing to the girls we worked with this summer in a writing workshop at the Girls’ School, Indiana’s Correctional Facility for young women. Not all the girls attended this last meeting of the group. Five had been released; one was on suicide watch. But it was lovely to see the others gather outside of the visiting room where we waited for them, waving, grinning, just as they had done before each meeting in the summer.
It was even better to see the slow smiles dawn on their faces as they leafed through the book made of their words.
As we neared the end of our time together, Francine asked if she could read the dedication of the book aloud. Of course, we said, “Yes.”
She began, “Recording Memories; Girls in Prison Speak…”
“Prison,” Lauvette interrupted. “This ain’t…”
“We in prison,” Francine said, firmly. And read on.
Francine was right. These girls are in prison. All you have to do to be sure of that is to look out the window of the room where we’re sitting to see the tall fence, topped with razor wire that defines the sad reach of their adolescent lives.
I’m not naïve. I know that some of these girls have done terrible things, all of them were on track for disaster one way or another and needed some time away from the environments in which their lives had gone so off track. Nonetheless, it seems so wrong for them to be incarcerated as adult felons are. They’re girls, after all, many with futures still capable of being redeemed. And there’s the class issue. I’d bet that girls in families with financial resources are much more likely to end up hospitalized in mental health institutions where they can get real help.
But I don’t want to write about that here. At least not now. What I want write about is our time with the girls and to share their voices.
So I’ll start with Francine and Lauvette, beautiful African-American girls, sixteen years old, best friends—who have become so close since they met at the Girls’ School that they call each other “twin.”
I am a young lady with a
I am an African-
American who is looking for
A good job.
I am that girl
Who was crying at night.
I am the young
Girl who’s wasting her
Live behind bars.
I am the young lady
Whose house you shot up and robbed
I am the young girl
Who loves herself.
I am beautiful so why tell me something
DO THEY LISTEN…
Do they listen to what we say
No they don’t they just
Want it their way
Why don’t they listen
We got a voice just like
We are all human beings
Just cause we locked up they don’t
Listen we understand that there
But why treat us liked caged animals
When we speak we get wrote up
When we say something good
They don’t acknowledge us
But when we say some bad
We go to seg
Why don’t they listen to our voices?