Greater Westfield Chamber of Commerce

WESTFIELD STATE UNIVERSITY HOSTS “VOICES CARRY” EVENT FEATURING THE CREATIVE WORK OF FORMERLY INCARCERATED WOMEN

Westfield State University will host “Voices Carry,” a program of “Voices From Inside” which gives formerly incarcerated women the opportunity to share their inspirational creative writing work. This free event will take place Wednesday, March 28 at 7 p.m. in Scanlon Banquet Hall.

Westfield State University has hosted the “Voices Carry” group since 2006. The campus-wide event features the sharing of poetry and creative writing from formerly incarcerated women of local cities and towns as a part of their rehabilitation and community outreach to college and university students in Western Massachusetts. Voices writers share and discuss their experiences, which provides attendees with an opportunity to gain an understanding of the challenges facing women who have been incarcerated as they work to rebuild their lives. “Voices Carry” writers also visit other local institutions, such as Smith and Mt. Holyoke colleges, in addition to Westfield State University.

“This event can be life-changing for my students and give them a sense of purpose both for their education and the education of others,” said Dr. Elizabeth Stassinos, faculty coordinator of the Westfield State Experience, the university’s signature student engagement initiative. “Students can see how education and writing can be the way out of prison and “prisons of the mind” as well. Some of our students volunteer to work with these after-prison educational programs and this helps them explore career paths in social work, ethnic and gender studies, criminal justice, etc.”

Voices From Inside (VFI) has been helping women who are currently or formerly incarcerated to find their voices since 1999. Their goals include aiding women to return to, and become leaders in, their communities. VFI has reached over 1,600 women in Western Massachusetts by offering writing workshops for those who are or have been incarcerated. It also offers programs for girls and women who are at risk for incarceration. VFI brings the women they work with into community conversations, and urges participation in presentations and performances that allow them to share their writing and get involved in Western Massachusetts communities.

“Many of these women were victims before they were offenders,” said Dr. Stassinos. “Voices helps us learn how we can intervene and help people both before and after incarceration.”

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