It’s not going to be the graduation ceremony they had imagined. Instead, it is a "pandemic" celebration. Still, the 18 PCAP graduates have a lot to celebrate and be thankful for.
ANN ARBOR—We talked to some PCAP graduates and they shared with us some insights about their time with the program. Enjoy!
BEING A PCAPer
Hannah Agnew - a Sociology major graduating with Honors who has focused her studies on Mass Incarceration, Women’s experiences with Incarceration, Prison Abolition, and Sexuality Studies.
"To me, being a part of the PCAP family is the highest honor. It means being a part of a community that spans far beyond a college campus. One that spans to every correctional facility in the state, to similar programs throughout the country, and even those outside of the country like in Brazil. Being a part of this family means spending at least half of your time at every PCAP gathering hugging everyone like your life depends on it, it means treating the arts not as a privilege reserved for a certain class but as a tool for social change and a means to connect and engage with those both similar and different from yourself, it means having an endless amount love for those that you meet through it and forging life-long friendships, it means lots of heartbreak and tears over the needless suffering that is seen and shared, but most importantly it means seeing real, concrete change being created in seemingly hopeless places."
Myra Visser - Bachelor of Science in Biophysics
"Being a part of PCAP has given me the opportunity to form close bonds with like-minded people who I continue to learn and grow from. I enjoyed every second I spent with them, and I’m so thankful I’ll always have those memories to look back on. During my time in PCAP, I’ve been involved in the lit review, various PCAP workshops, the art show, and I’m on the student executive committee. PCAP opened my eyes to the world beyond academia – I’ve learned so much about creative expression through the incarcerated people I’ve talked to, and my interactions with them continue to shape my understanding of the values of art and accessibility to the arts."
Erin Ringel - a Sociology major graduating with a minor in sociocultural anthropology
"Volunteering as a part of PCAP impacted my academic life by furthering my interest in a career in criminal justice reform. Personally, it has helped me to better understand the issue of mass incarceration, and what challenges incarcerated people face both inside and once they are out of prison."
Mary Basso - A History and French major graduating with a minor in Women’s Studies and PoliSci
"I discovered PCAP my sophomore year of college. I joined after becoming frustrated with ineffectual clubs on campus that discussed policy, but did little to directly improve the lives of others. Coming to PCAP was like joining a family of like-minded individuals who valued helping others and providing a humanizing service to people in need."
"I am proud of what the Sisters [Within theatre troupe at Women’s Huron Valley] have put together in the time that I've been with them. They are by far some of the most talented women I've ever met and I think we've put some truly beautiful plays together in the past couple of years. I'm proud to bring a community of incarcerated women, staff members, and PCAPers to watch the performances on the inside and to share their stories with folks on the outside."
"I am proud of the ways I’ve changed since joining PCAP since I’ve become a much more open minded person. I’m taking a gap year after graduation and working in my lab for the time being. I hope to apply to graduate school in the near future."
"I am very proud of all of my workshop co-facilitators, who worked hard each week to prepare exercises and activities during the very busy school year. I am also proud of the PCAP staff, who have been very inspiring through their stories and commitment to PCAP. I am also proud of the participants of my workshops, who showed up every week to workshops eager to express themselves creatively."
"I'm proud that I was able to give my time every week to create a space where people could experience joy and feel safe being themselves."
"During the last play put on by the Sisters at the women's prison, we performed a musical number to the tune of ‘I Will Survive’ which was centered around Queerness and the idea that you should love someone for who they are, regardless of their gender. Several women sang about their love for each other while everybody else danced around in crazy outfits and animal onesies with large Pride flags draped over their shoulders. In the audience sat correctional officers, prison administrators, and other women from the facility, all applauding those on stage celebrating their Queerness––something for which they typically faced harassment within the prison. This moment was really beautiful and I reflect back on it a lot, as I saw the impact of theatre in restrictive environments as the performance allowed for a transcendence of the strict hierarchies between the Sisters and prison staff and enabled the women to unapologetically express themselves despite being in an institution that constantly restricts their humanity."
"One of my favorite PCAP memories was the final performance of my first workshop at Lincoln [Center, Spectrum Juvenile Justice Services]. We’d spent the last couple months working on a project centered around the heroes in our lives, and I wasn’t sure how much the boys would be willing to share with the audience at the showcase. My mom, my sister, and my best friend all came to watch them perform, and the other facilitators had invited their friends and family too. What moved me the most was that many of them brought additional poetry and pieces that they had been writing on the side, and they were willing to share them with a group of strangers in addition to what we’d been working on in the workshop. It was difficult and bittersweet to say goodbye at the end, especially since I knew that was the last time I would see them."
"One of my most memorable moments from being a PCAPer was the final performance of our workshop at Parnall [Correctional Facility]. The men in our workshop wrote amazing stories, poems, and songs, and it was a really cool experience hearing them showcase art that they had worked so hard on. At the end of the final performance, many of the men expressed how grateful they were to participate in weekly workshops. This made me realize the importance of creative arts in prisons, and the positive impact that it can have."
"A watershed moment for me occurred my first semester in PCAP. My co-facilitators and I were leading the "Where I Am From" poem activity during which all the participants wrote a stylized poem about their backgrounds. The other U-M students and I wrote about happy childhoods in nature with lots of laughter and surrounded by family, while the guys in our workshop wrote about lonely experiences, violence, and hardship in their youth. It was really shocking for me and made me realize how many factors are at play in the carceral state."