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Windward // Windward Oahu Coverstory
Carol Chang

WCCC Inmates Share Life Lessons

Churchgoers and prisoners will come together at 5:30 p.m. Aug. 24 in Kailua for a special live performance that’s often heart-wrenching. Inmates from the Women’s Community Correctional Center will present “Prison Monologues” at St. John Lutheran Church for members and the public.

The one-hour program is an outgrowth of Pat Clough’s creative writing class at the Windward prison, where women have found a way to climb out of their problems by writing and sharing their thoughts with others in a safe, constructive environment. Retired family court judge Karen Radius, founder of Girls Court, invited them to come to the church.

A free, light meal will follow the monologues, and the church will provide childcare for those under 14. To RSVP, call 261-5787 or email sjohnhi@hawaii.rr.com with the number of attendees. The church is located at 1004 Kailua Road.

“The women certainly have overcome stagefright,” said Clough, a Kailua resident who has taught the course as a volunteer for 10 years at WCCC. “They are very accomplished in presenting readings from the class about how they’ve changed their lives, and how they hope their audience doesn’t follow in their footsteps.”

Her students have learned to express themselves via poetry, songs and writings, and they’ve brought their message to schools, treatment centers, shelters and conferences as far away as Hawaii island. “Our favorite audience is Waipahu Intermediate,” said Clough, and they will return for two sessions next month with its 1,400 students. That’s where they are needed, she said.

“The difference between these women and me,” wrote one teen listener, “is that they have turned a bad situation into great lessons to teach teenagers.”

But the women have learned that the adult leaders want to listen in. “It’s mushroomed beyond the schools,” Clough said, “as the staffs want to know ‘why is this so effective, and how can we deal with these troubled teens?’ ”

Pua Foundation has taken on sponsorship for Prison Monologues from Windward Arts Council, and the partnership fits well into WCCC warden Mark Patterson’s mission. “He’s a huge supporter,” said Clough, “because the women more than adequately demonstrate his vision of prison as a place of healing. And this session at St. John will show the community what a great resource they have that’s right here. They will be compelled to change the way they think about incarceration.”

The group of four students, who have been in the program for two-anda-half years, also shared their stories in March at the Hawaii State Legislature for Women’s History Month. To address the state’s movers and shakers, Clough recalled, was a culminating event, a peak experience. “In fact, the governor declared that March 25 should be Prison Monologues Day forever.”

Another outgrowth of the class is its journal, Hulihia (to transform), which will soon publish its ninth collection of the women’s writings. They literally begin as writings, Clough added, since her students put pen to paper. “There’s something about moving the hand on a page, a direct relationship.” To learn more or offer help, email her at pathclough@gmail.com.

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