Transformative Experience at Indiana Women's Prison
By: Erin Duffy
Major Giving & Alumni Relations Coordinator
The Orchard School
OPTIONS Class 11
I heard from many OPTIONS Alumnae that the site visit to the Indiana Women’s Prison was something you don’t want to miss. I got the opportunity to have that experience Tuesday, September 20th. If I can sum it up in one word (although it is difficult to narrow it down), I would call the experience transformative.
Heading into this visit I was uncertain about what to expect. Walking into prison is not something the average American aspires to do. Leading up to this day, I wondered how these incarcerated women would feel—would it feel like an “us vs. them,” the small collective “them,” being this group of women from the OPTIONS 11 class, on the outside looking in on the “us”es (the offenders) like a collection of objects for show?
What I didn’t expect was to be inspired by these women. I didn’t expect to be moved by their stories. I didn’t expect to feel an urgency to find a way to help prevent another generation of women to be incarcerated. After all, I was part of the “them” and they were the “us.”
We were treated to an incredible experience seeing a team of talented women do, what I would call, interactive improvisational theater, followed by a panel discussion. I was struck by many things, but one stood out. One women expressed: “this is not who I am.” I realized at that moment that it isn’t okay to define her, or any of these other women, simply as a person incarcerated. Each one of us wants to be acknowledged for something more than what we appear to be. We desire and deserve dignity for being who we are—just human beings trying to live on this Earth.
I walked away understanding that these women that I had the privilege to meet have the same concerns about their kids and want to be the same kind of mom that I aspire to be. The only difference is that I got to leave the prison today, get back in my car, pick up my kids and hug them.
I also walked away from that experience with the realization that we are all one very bad decision away from being in prison. That the problem isn’t necessarily what they did, but what brought them to the point where they ended up today. How can we prevent the cycle and how can we lift up those who come out of the prison system and want to be our neighbors, our co-workers, our friends?
To learn more about Women's Fund's support of Indiana Women's Prison, click here to read a blog post sharing information about past grants distributed.
Photo credits: State of Indiana - Indiana Department of Corrections, The Indianapolis Star (Danese Kenon)
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