Whether you wear a prison uniform or college clothes, people all have dreams, hopes, fears and wish to be understood. This became the sentiment from both women inmates at and several college students at Dartmouth College after working together creating a play and subsequent documentary, Telling My Story, about the lives of incarcerated women.
The 14 female prisoners are spending incarcerated time at the Sullivan County House of Correction in Unity in New Hampshire. The 10 students were enrolled in a community-based learning course at Dartmouth College in Hanover, New Hampshire. For 10 weeks the unlikely combination of Dartmouth college students and Sullivan County prisoners collaborated to create a play that addressed the difficulty of women in prison.
Women are the fastest growing segment of the incarcerated population increasing at nearly double the rate of men since 1985.
Watching the 5 minute trailer of Telling My Story brought tears to my eyes as I heard the women inmates despair about life in prison – the unfairness of harsh sentencing and the feelings of society not caring about them as human beings. Many of these women feel that their sentences were harsher due to their social-economic (low income) status, and that people with higher incomes receive lesser sentences.
And many of the college students who were part of this documentary and play, feel lucky that they were born to parents who could afford to send them to a prestigious college, but also had fears of failure and felt the pressures of society on them as well.
Working on the play, Telling My Story, brought these two groups of people together. Barriers that were put up initially, eventually began to break down as the women told their stories, laughed, cried, talked and argued together to help bring their perspectives to light. Both groups began with preconceptions and stereotypes, and after 10 weeks, all participants were transformed into realizing that – we are all human beings.
The Director/Producer of the documentary, Telling My Story, is an award-winning filmmaker and media educator by the name of Signe Taylor. She specializes in documentaries that try and help young people and at-risk youth ways to deal with conflict resolution and substance abuse prevention.
The Primary Advisor, Pati Hernandez, is an adjunct Professor of Women’s and Gender Studies at Dartmouth College and the founder of Telling My Story, non-profit organization. She believes that healing can begin with theater and self-expression within correctional facilities and started a course at Dartmouth College called, “Inside/Out. Prison, Women and Performance.” From this course comes the documentary, Telling My Story, about the 2010 Dartmouth College summer term of this class.
Please take time out to watch this powerful and heart breaking and heart warming trailer for the film, Telling My Story and please feel free to donate anything to help with editing costs to finish the movie so that everyone can hear the stories of incarcerated women.