In 2013 without my knowledge, a UW music professor called Claudia Jensen led a summer class where students worked with former prisoners to learn about prison education issues. In 2014, the summer class actually went to the prison, and inmates and UW students steered the class from simply learning about issues to actually doing something, and the student club HOPE was formed to carry out their plans.
I didn’t enter the picture until summer 2014. That spring I had received three emails in one week about prison-related opportunities, and so I thought God was telling me something and I signed up. The summer class brought me up to speed on current problems in our justice and prison systems, which I was hitherto blissfully ignorant of. It gave me a sense of civic responsibility and a passion to do something, so I joined HOPE to carry on the work through the school year.
I have been attending weekly meetings, helping collect and store books in my office to send to the Monroe prison, and attempting to arrange for a lecture or discussion to happen up at the prison.
On May 27-28, we hosted a prison art exhibit on the quad. With some help from my Dad, I created a prison cell out of pipe, and made pallet display board to hang the art. Others painted my cell, collected art from prisoners and former prisoners, and created informational flyers. Here’s our final set-up: