“This is the only place where I’m not just an inmate. Here, I’m that guy who is a pretty good poet.” – Writing class student, Ray Brook Federal Correctional Institute
For 18 years, ACW has offered year-round classes in various genres for the student writers at Ray Brook Federal Correctional Institute. At the longest-running federal prison writing program in the country, these students learn invaluable creative and technical writing skills.
With the challenges of the pandemic, classes switched from classrooms to mailed correspondences. More than ever, these students are facing immense challenges and these classes offer an essential outlet for education and reflection.
Classes this year so far have included workshops in grammar, short fiction, memoir, and creative writing, and had record-high student registrations. Read about the program in the “Stories of Release: Inmates Become Writers” article in the Adirondack Explorer.
How does ACW’s prison writing program impact its students and their families? Here is one answer:
The following is an email dated October 2, 2007.
“Dear Mr. Miller,
My son Aaron Davis is an inmate at Ray Brook FCI. He was one of your Journalism students.
Aaron asked, in a letter that we received from him last week, that I send you this e-mail to say how much he enjoyed your class. He wished to let you know that should you be teaching any further classes at the institution he will definitely be enrolling.
I might add, that we received such beautiful letters from him, after his taking your class. We were amazed at the improvement in the content of his letters, very positive and very artistically descriptive of his surroundings. This was such an improvement over some of the letters we have previously received from him that were, well … not as joyful to read at the receiving end. We have previously offered suggestions, but you have clearly made a very positive impression on him, and we hope that all, or most of, his future letter writing endeavors are as positive and uplifting.
On behalf of Aaron Davis, we thank you for your time and efforts at the journalism instruction at the Ray Brook Federal Correctional Institution.
Thank you, Albert and Cynthia Davis”
*All names have been changed and redacted to maintain anonymity.