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Prison Writers

HAND copy A close-up look on the experiences of the MPWW_Minnesota Prison Writing Workshop. The project was initially developed as an independent seed film that would be part of a forthcoming in-depth documentary centering on the Stillwater Writer’s Collective and on how the writing practice has affected this group of inmates (most of them ‘lifers’) and their life at the correctional facility. The film will look into the motivations, contradictions, beliefs and expectations and overall experiences of this group of mostly volunteer writing teachers. We will explore their perspective as they carry on with the workshops: the realities faced, the difficulties they see ahead and, the reasons for optimism given the harsh and somber future prospects for many of the participants on the workshops. The film will portray closely some of these teachers as they face the complexities of the work at hand. It will also show them as they conduct classes at one or two correctional facilities [Stillwater and Lino Lakes] and would try to portray the effect the writing practice exerts on the incarcerated men. The piece will never attempt to analyze the participants’ reasons for being behind bars, or question the law enforcement authorities reasoning’s to apply the incumbent law. It is not a judging exercise on the prison system or an analysis on prison terms and sentences. We will not address dramatically the sentences or their characters. When needed we will give concise and brief information about the inmates we have contacted without dwelling on it. Through the practice of writing, the inmates go through a series of experiences that become valuable life-enduring tools that prevail above the passage of time. From simple tools, like the simple act of writing, maintaining a routine, or occupying their time to more complex and enduring ones like introspection, exploration of one’s memories and current realities, and the ability to cope with personal shortcomings. Per MPWW’s website, one inmate reports: “As a person who has spent the vast majority of his adult life caught up in a cycle of crime, drug addiction and prison, writing has been the one thing that has allowed me to reconnect with a part of myself that I lost sight of a long, long time ago.  Writing and sharing my story has given me the opportunity to rediscover who I really am, who I was meant to be, and to finally begin realizing my potential.” Our scope will mainly focus on the positive and brave determination shown by teachers and writers to foster the benefits of an ancient practice behind prison walls.