Hi students of English 110,
Welcome to your newest assignment!
There are over 2 million fellow American citizens incarcerated at the present time. Our current assignment is a study of the prison system and to explore the lives of the inmates before, during and after their incarceration. Many of those incarcerated in our prisons are stereotyped as hard criminals and cruel human beings. We are going to investigate and discover the nature of many of these inmates. We will look into their backgrounds and upbringings. What are the factors that contributed to their present situations? What are their feelings now? What are the ramifications of their being in prison? How will they act once released from prison? What will happen to their families while they are locked up? What effect does incarceration have on their lives and on the lives of those close to them?
We will be writing a research paper about the lives of these individuals based on our findings and research.
To answer some of these questions, the first stage of our three week project will consist of some background research by going through some readings, listening to podcasts or watching videos. We will spend three days working in computer labs searching for and gathering this information. Some of the media available will shed light on the plights of current and past inmates and how their incarceration played out in their lives. Radiolab’s Dear Hector sheds light on one inmate’s personal story throughout his life and how he got to where he is. MSNBC’s “Lock Up” series explores life in prison from many different perspectives of both the prisoners and the staff. Some readings to consider are the New York Times article “Prison and the Poverty Trap” by John Tierney or Craig Haney’s Psychological Impact of Incarceration. Feel free to search for any relevant media that you think will contribute to your paper.
During the second week of the project we will visit two prisons in the tri-state area, one of which is a maximum security facility, where we will have the opportunity to speak with a few of the inmates and staff there. When speaking with them we will be splitting into groups of three so that everyone will have the opportunity to ask questions. These questions will be focused mostly on the individual stories of the inmates. These questions may be personal (obviously within limits) – what got them into prison, how their families or communities reacted, how they foresee their future etc.
Our goal here is to discover the feelings and sentiments of both the inmates and their families. Some of the families who live close by will be coming to our campus during that second week to speak with us as well. We will be able to ask them their perspective on how the incarceration affected them and how they perceive their spouse/sibling/son/daughter etc. now after what has happened? Were they to blame? What’s in store for them after they get released?
We will be taking notes during our interviews with the inmates and staff and as we get tours of the facilities. Take notice of are how they are treated in prison and how they get along with each other. How does this affect their well being and overall health? As we research and jot down notes during this two week period, we will begin to start forming outlines and writing rough drafts of what our paper will look like and what we hope to accomplish with it.
During the final week of this assignment we will be writing our papers and describing what we learned about the inmates and their families. We will compare how we had thought about incarceration before and after we undertook this task. The final week will be spent working individually both at home and in computer labs on campus. Towards the end of the week we will have a session of peer review to get feedback on our writing and how we can improve or add to it.
Finally, by sharing our writing with the inmates, their families and the world at large we will present incarceration and its ramifications as we see it.