Words Without Walls Visits Avonworth

On Thursday, January 26th, co-founder Sarah Shotland spoke to a full Collaboration Center during 8th period about her experiences teaching creative writing to inmates in the Allegheny County Jail through the Words Without Walls program at Chatham College. After keeping the mixed audience of over 50 students quiet and engaged in the stories she shared, Shotland was invited by junior Maya Berardi to talk to her Fragments staff.

Reading from a collection of stories written by inmates, Mrs. Shotland deeply captured the attention of the students attending through various classes, from Psychology and Service Learning to Academic English 11.

Junior Langley Turcsanyi commented by e-mail that “I thoroughly enjoyed the Words Without Walls presentation because it held intensely honest emotion. As a high school student, many of us have not experienced what a prison environment is like so our opinions are dependent on movies and other forms of entertainment. The movies are often heavily dramatized, which skews our interpretation of the situation.”

After the presentation, Shotland talked to the Fragments staff as well.

“I inquired about how accurate the film The Stanford Prison Experiment is (the film is based on a true story) and she asserted that it is more accurate than one may expect,” said Langley.

“She told me a story about a prison guard bringing leftover food to the class for the prisoners to have. Sarah’s teaching partner stood up to take some of the provided food and the guard that brought it told her that it was disgusting for her to eat it because that food was for the “animals”. He said this with the prisoners in the room. This shows that the guards feel an extreme superiority over the prisoners to the point that they don’t even consider them to be humans.”


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