Inspiration From Behind Bars


Writing can be a form of catharsis, or emotional release.

Eight women, who once were inmates at the Women’s Community Correctional Center in Kailua and now live at Ka Hale Ho’ala Hou No Na Wahine (The Home of Reawakening for Women), discovered its powerful effects in an eight-week creative writing course at the halfway house – and they got their works published.

“The classes were not only a creative outlet for the women, but also an opportunity for them to write their own version of their lives,” stated Lorraine Robinson, executive director of the TJ Mahoney & Associates halfway house.

Under the direction of University of Hawaii graduate Amalia Bueno, the women – Amourelle, Diane, Dione, Jessica, Kimmy, Kitty, Maryann and Stacey – wrote about their experiences and struggles. During a poetry reading last November, the newly minted poets, alongside other local writers, read their work at “Whea You From … And Whea You Going?” at Honolulu Friends Meeting House.

Their work got the attention of Anjoli Roy, editor in chief of Hawaii Review, the University of Hawaii’s student-run literary magazine. Roy decided to publish the poems as an online chapbook.

“The poetry was beautiful,” stated Roy. “The messages from the TJ Mahoney poets were ones of resilience, healing ourselves and our communities, recovery, humor and more. When the event came to a close, I walked out stunned, inspired.”

TJ Mahoney’s halfway house works to break up the cyclical nature of incarceration for offenders in Hawaii through its residential reentry services.

The poems are available to read online at