Originally from California, 2019 graduate Marena Dieden moved back to LA last Fall where she worked for a few months for presidential campaigns and congressmen, before starting UCLA Law School. Her work now will focus on criminal race studies and criminal justice. "PCAP guided me in all my decisions and it is the reason that I want to work with reform," she said.
While in PCAP
Diedan first heard about PCAP during her freshman year seminar called Incarcerated America and soon after got involved with the program, taking a part in the art show that year. She next facilitated workshops at Vista Maria (a residential treatment program for young women and girls) and at Cotton Correctional, with adult men whose impact really influenced her life decisions.
“My favorite memory working with Cotton Correctional was the final performance that took the form of a 2017 Whitehouse Press briefing. The men wanted to do something surrounding current events and decided that would be the best way to convey their feelings. It was an incredibly impactful experience seeing the raw emotion that came out of their performances and I have a very strong memory of it overall,” Dieden stated.
“These workshops showed me how much these men care about our society even though many of the current event issues did not directly affect them," she said. "Each man deeply cared about a wide variety of issues and it was really important for them to be able to talk about what was going on in this country.”
Diedan also served as a PCAP executive board member during her undergraduate experience.
Diedan said that kindness and love of the people in PCAP and their willingness to understand people at a level she had never seen before was inspiring and important to witness and experience.
“Finding the Prison Creative Arts community at Michigan was a pivotal thing for me,” Diedan said. “I regard my time in my workshop as some of the most influential times of my college career, especially meeting people like Ashley Lucas and Mary Heinen.”
“In terms of my workshop experiences, as a white woman from west LA, having the chance to go to a prison in Jackson and having the experience of going through security, dealing with guards, walking through the yards, and going on visiting days and seeing young children in the entryway waiting to see their family members was very challenging but very eye opening,” Diedan added.
Diedan was able to work with the men in a mutual growth process and form a group community with "incredible men who were very impressive writers.”
PCAP still has a large influence on Diedan’s life today as she still thinks of the men she worked with on a daily basis. She is now working with her former co-facilitators to write a piece on the performative arts in prisons and is really excited about the opportunity of being able to communicate with the men she worked with again.
“I feel I have witnessed the potential for restorative justice which is not something every person may believe in or that a young person may have a chance to experience”, she said.