Repentance and reflection was once the utopian ideal of the penitentiary system. This includes solitary confinement, which was first introduced in the U.S. in the 18th century. Back then, the ideal was not to punish but to provide a solitary space or sanctuary from the evils of the outside world in which to repent.
Today, that ideal has been swallowed by a massive prison industrial complex, but despite being overcrowded and underfunded, some prisons do offer educational programs like writing classes. For those who are incarcerated, putting words on a page, sharing their experiences, and discovering new identities can be transformative.
KCRW explores how poetry and writing have provided meaning for formerly and currently incarcerated people, plus how prison writing serves as a window into life inside America’s incarceration system.