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Prisoner’s Express: Journal Project

Rebekah Westerlind

This service opportunity is outstanding. Prisoner Express has organized a journal project giving inmates a chance to reflect both on their prison experience and life in general. The inmates write down their thoughts and then send these letters to Anabel Taylor through the Prisoner Express program. When APO volunteers show up, we have the chance to read these letters the inmates have sent in and write responses back. Prisoners write what is on their mind, ranging from recommending their favorite book to poems about loneliness and almost anything in between. The perspectives and experiences brought forth in the journal reflections are unique from what students typically encounter going through daily life on a busy college campus. Participating in this event has provided me with a unique opportunity to think more deeply about society around me and inspired me to express deeper gratitude for the opportunities afforded me and the people around me. The calm atmosphere of the Alternatives Library (where the event takes place) provides the perfect ambiance to disconnect from quotidian worries and engage in real thought and introspection on these weightier matters.

While this can be a one-time service event, students can also choose to come regularly, building up a continued correspondence with inmates. Perhaps my favorite thing about this service event is the real impact it has on the recipients. I’ve read letters in which inmates expressed a longing to know that someone out there is thinking about them or cares enough to reach out and connect with them. Each time I agonize over what to say in response, I know the effort is worth it for providing that individual with a moment of connection and the message that the outside world does care.