I’ve gone to Jail

Yes, it’s true. I’ve gone to jail. My first time . . . and it took a bit of doing to find it!

I’ve started volunteering at the Richmond City jail (properly known as the Justice Center) where I am teaching writing to 13 male inmates. My first class was this week. 


The list of rules for visitors was a bit of a surprise. Not the part about not bringing in any weapons, drugs, or food–that was rather obvious. But I was surprised that there was a rule against wearing see-through blouses (Darn! Just what I’d planned to wear!) and sandals (Explain that one to me, please.) No dangly jewelry, like earrings or necklaces, no spiral notebooks (wire), no hardcover books (heavy and hard). The only thing a visitor can bring inside is a picture ID, which is left at the desk, and car keys. 

I was pleased to see that my students are at a level roughly akin to what I saw in my U.S. History survey classes at VCU (largely freshman). No one needs the really basic stuff, thank goodness. Of course, these men were carefully selected and are probably not typical of the general prison population. Still, it’s a luxury to have eager students who are well positioned to take advantage of whatever help I can give them. My only goal, as I told them, is that their writing improves. We aren’t fussing with grades or tests. This is all about getting better at expressing themselves.

Will this volunteer work help my writing about murder mysteries in the Roaring Twenties? Probably not, although it can’t hurt being exposed to an incarcerated population that is not that different from the general population. Stay tuned . . . 


Published in: on May 25, 2015 at 3:14 pm  Comments (2)  
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2 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. I am so impressed—got out of your comfort zone, I’d say and I know the impact on their lives and YOURS will be great. Just did some studying this morning on book of Daniel-love Old Testament and his LACK of fear kept him in good graces with the KING who took him and lots of Jews out of Jerusalem into captivity==-Babylon(now Iraq) and the impact he had on that pagan culture—not sure how pagan your prison population is, but any positive impact is GREAT. Will be praying for great success. A friend of mine in Ga has a prison ministry—at the woman’s prison in her hometown—and her stories of changed lives is wonderful. They pack about 1500 bags each Christmas with goodies—paper soap, cards, etc—been doing this many years—so go girl—love this story best of all. All family fine? all fine here—just too much rain in baton Rouge—storms each day so glad I have good books and always paperwork to do inside—but going to eat RIBS tonight—great tradition—even in the BAYOU, love sarah

  2. You will be wonderful! Are these long term prisoners who will come to multiple classes? Miss seeing you, we need to catch up.

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