Embark with us to Brazil and our adventures during PCAP's 2019 trip! DAY #3

U-M students bring great energy and their whole hearts to the exchange at UDESC
by Ashley Lucas

Dear readers,

This morning we had some time to ourselves to sleep in. Some of the students took a bus downtown to do some shopping while others enjoyed a quiet stroll around the neighborhood near our hotel, which is quite lovely. Jose and I went to campus earlier than the students because a student reporter at UDESC wanted to interview us for a web story that he is producing about our exchange. If it gets released while we’re still traveling, I’ll share the link to the story with this list.

The students joined us on campus after lunch, where we did a theatre game exchange with first year theatre students at UDESC. This involved about sixty of us in a giant circle teaching the kinds of theatre games we use in the prisons. Prof. Vicente Concilio and I helped translate as our students introduced the games to one another. I was really proud of all of our Michigan students today because they brought such great energy and their whole hearts to the exchange. Many of them were able to explain whole theatre games in Portuguese or to make themselves understood without translation, and it was wonderful to see them communicating so well and teaching and learning from the UDESC students.

After the exchange of games, there was a roundtable about prison education. Vicente and I each spoke about our prison theatre programs, and several other UDESC professors talked about the work they do in prisons. UDESC has a robust library sciences program to train students to be librarians, and there’s a wing of that program that specifically works on prison libraries. They have done wonderful things to help establish and organize libraries in the state of Santa Catarina’s prisons. There’s this very interesting and wonderful prison regulation that for each book that you read as an incarcerated person, you receive a slight reduction in your sentence. The difficult part is getting a hold of a book in the first place, so this prison library program is working to help people earn their freedom sooner, in addition to the obvious intellectual and emotional benefits of having access to books.

Another program we got to hear about in the local women’s prison (which we will visit on Saturday) involved an anthropology professor doing a letter writing project in which incarcerated women wrote letters about their hopes and dreams. These letters were then shared with other groups of people outside prison, and those groups were encouraged to write back to the women in prison. The letters from outsiders were then brought into the prison for the women to read. This same group made a deck of cards in which each one has the image of a specific woman who has endured incarceration somewhere in the world. There’s a booklet that goes along with the cards that tells the story of each woman in the deck. My student Liv and I each offered to buy a deck of these cards from the professor organizing the project because we really want to show them to the women in PCAP’s Sisters Within Theatre Troupe (our oldest workshop, which takes place in the women’s prison in Ypsilanti). The professor told us that she can’t sell us a deck of cards now because they are not finished. The women in the prison are now making cards about themselves to include in the deck, and once that is done, she will let us buy decks of the cards to share with incarcerated women in the U.S. We also started brainstorming about a way to create some kind of an exchange of letters or stories between this group of incarcerated women in Brazil and the Sisters Within. I don’t know what we’ll do or how it might work yet, but we plan to keep the conversation going. It would be so meaningful for everyone involved to have a sense of how women endure confinement in different parts of the world and to give them a chance to reflect on this experience together.

After the panel, we split into smaller groups to get some dinner and get to bed early. We need our sleep because we’re visiting our first prison on this trip tomorrow.

Bons sonhos (Good dreams)!

Credit: Games and discussions about prison education. Courtesy: Vicente Concilio

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