Louis Bourgeois joined us this afternoon for Books and Lunch to discuss the Prison Writers Initiative which he began as a way to help Mississippi inmates connect with the outside world, cope with their lives in prison, and have their work published. Bourgeois read from inmate’s memoirs and poetry, pointing out that many of these men never received high school educations or had ever put pen to paper before. The result is impressive. Their stories are honest and vulnerable, and many of them, as Bourgeois pointed out, had their own distinct literary voice. Inmates write about daily life in prison, interacting with the men on death row, and finding personal identity in a harsh world and with the weight of a disreputable past.
Bourgeois began teaching creative writing to male inmates at Parchman and has expanded the program to include death row inmates, female inmates at Mississippi Correctional Facility in Pearl, and is currently planning outreach to young people in juvenile detention centers as well as for children whose families are incarcerated. You can learn more about the Prison Writers Initiative (PWI) and purchase In Our Own Words: Writing from Parchman Prison and Unit 30 at the PWI website.