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Best Life: Prison poets escaping fear and loneliness

Published: Jan. 10, 2022 at 6:45 AM CST
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MIAMI, FLA. (Ivanhoe Newswire) – There are more than 231,000 women locked up in the United States -- 58% of previously incarcerated women are rearrested, 38% are reconvicted and 30% are returned to prison in the three years following their release.

As you can imagine, being behind bars causes stress, anxiety and loneliness. Now, one woman is encouraging the inmates to put their fears and feelings in a book.

“It is giving them hope that people will care and hear about what’s happening inside,” said Kathie Klarreich, the founder of Exchange for Change.

Klarreich keeps a lifeline between people in prison and the outside world with her work at Exchange for Change. She runs a writing program and her latest publication, Hear Us, writing from the inside during covid is an outlet for those often considered outcasts.

“We asked them to write something that would make us stop and pause, that would take our breath away, that we would really understand the impact of what they were suffering inside a closed environment,” Klarreich goes on to read the words of a prisoner turned writer. “I dream of mentoring at-risk youth and showing them a different way. I dream of book signings and using that platform to address the overlooked issue of mass incarceration.”

Michelle Towson took part in these writing projects while serving time for a drug conviction. Exiled by her family, she says working with these volunteers made her feel less alone.

“It’s the hardest thing in life to know that nobody cares. That’s hard, for anyone,” she said. “And so, when people care and show you that they care, that’s important. It makes people feel whole again.”

Hear Us has entries from 58 incarcerated men and women from ten states.

“We cannot just call people criminals. We have to look at the humanity that’s locked up,” said Klarreich.

In all, 200 essays were submitted for the book from 18 different states. The book is available on the exchange for change website or on amazon.

Contributor(s) to this news report include: Neki Mohan, Producer; Judy Reich, Videographer and Roque Correa Editor.

Copyright 2022 WMC. All rights reserved.

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