Prisoners be informed writing talents thru a brand new program based by means of a USC Dornsife alumna > Information > USC Dornsife

Prisoners be informed writing talents thru a brand new program based by means of a USC Dornsife alumna > Information > USC Dornsife

Volunteers within the USC Jail Schooling Challenge’s Readers’ Circle program supply typing, copyediting and proofreading products and services to folks in custody throughout america.


  • Keziah Poole ’21 based The Readers’ Circle program at USC in February 2022.
  • Poole was once impressed by means of prisoners’ enthusiastic reaction to ingenious writing categories she taught throughout the USC Dornsife Jail Schooling Challenge.
  • USC school and scholars sort, edit and supply editorial comments to paintings despatched in by means of imprisoned writers.
  • This system has had masses of submissions from 26 states, and organizers are running on including a Spanish-language element.

Literature written in jail has a shockingly tough historical past. Martin Luther King Jr.’s Letter from Birmingham Prison could be the primary paintings that springs to thoughts, however do you know that John Bunyan started his Christian vintage The Pilgrim’s Growth whilst serving time in a county jail 3 centuries previous?

French author Jean Genet handwrote his first novel whilst imprisoned close to Paris within the Forties, and extra lately, Nico Walker typed up his acclaimed debut e book, Cherry, on a jail typewriter in Kentucky.

Writing at the back of bars is an uphill fight, alternatively. Many citizens don’t have get admission to to computer systems, web get admission to is critically rationed and there’s little probability of achieving an editor whilst serving out a sentence.

Prisoners be informed writing talents thru a brand new program based by means of a USC Dornsife alumna > Information > USC Dornsife

The Readers’ Circle founder Keziah Poole graduated from USC Dornsife in 2021. (Photograph Courtesy: Keziah Poole)

A brand new initiative began by means of USC Dornsife Letters, Arts and Sciences alumna Keziah Poole ’21 helps to fill this hole. The USC PEP Readers’ Circle, hosted by means of the USC Dornsife Jail Schooling Challenge (PEP), fits prisoners and the ones lately launched from jail with volunteer USC school contributors and scholars, who supply help with writing tasks. Assist levels from typing up handwritten paintings to copyediting to offering comments on manuscripts.

“We now have a large number of members pronouncing, ‘My circle of relatives is pleased with me for the primary time, now that I’m in a position to provide this writing,’” says Poole. “We’ve additionally had individuals who were printed on account of our help.”

Poole is lately an American Council of Realized Societies Main Edge Fellow on the Petey Greene Program in Washington, D.C., the place she is helping with their Faculty Bridge program within the D.C. prison whilst proceeding her paintings with The Readers’ Circle.

Writing lend a hand for prisoners

The Readers’ Circle sprang from Poole’s time instructing categories thru USC PEP, whilst finishing her PhD in comparative literature at USC Dornsife. PEP arranges for USC school to show categories within prisons, with undergraduate scholars offering lecture room help.

Within the spring of 2021, Poole taught an artistic writing elegance at Amity Area in Los Angeles, which is helping male former prisoners navigate reentry into society following their unencumber from jail, and she or he spent the summer season instructing on the Halawa Correctional Facility in Hawaii. Many of her scholars had been desperate to proceed receiving lend a hand with their writing after her categories had wrapped up.

Poole mentioned her quandary with Nik De Dominic, affiliate professor (instructing) of writing, and Kate Levin, assistant professor (instructing) of writing, each co-directors of USC PEP. With their lend a hand, Poole introduced The Readers’ Circle in February 2022.

Prisoners mail of their writing, along side requests for products and services, to The Readers’ Circle place of work. Scholar staff scan and anonymize submissions, then Poole sends out a choice to volunteers to look who could be all in favour of lending a hand. Asked duties from prisoners come with typing up handwritten writing, proofreading, copyediting and common comments. The finished paperwork are then revealed and returned.

Up to now, submissions have ranged extensively, from poetry to sci-fi novels to private essays. One workforce of volunteers lately hosted a reside learn of a submission, accumulating collective comments.

Abhiraj Giritharan, a legislation, historical past, and tradition primary, is the coed director overseeing submissions to this system. He first met Poole when he was once a instructing assistant for one in every of her categories, then caught round to lend a hand her release The Readers’ Circle.

The enjoy has aligned smartly along with his profession objectives, he says, as he’s hoping to paintings with felony defendants as a attorney.

“However, running at The Readers’ Circle may be helpful to my position as a citizen,” provides Giritharan. “Folks in The usa are in most cases blind to the truth of incarceration. The Readers’ Circle offers our volunteers direct get admission to to the views of incarcerated folks by means of the ingenious works they make within the advanced prerequisites of a jail mobile.”

This distinctive enjoy is to be had to different undergraduates as smartly. PEP companions with the USC Writing Program in a neighborhood engagement route, the place participation in The Readers’ Circle is without doubt one of the elegance necessities.

Jail outreach is helping the ones at the back of bars

This system has grown frequently since its release, particularly after PEP hosted a writing pageant for incarcerated folks in 2022 that introduced in over 600 submissions. Each and every of the ones entrants won a flier promoting The Readers’ Circle products and services, which unfold the phrase to folks in custody throughout america.

The Readers’ Circle leaders are actually running on including a Spanish-language element to this system to lend a hand the numerous incarcerated folks for whom Spanish is their number one language.

For prisoners who’re in solitary confinement, below sanctions or in far off spaces with out programming, mail correspondence with The Readers’ Circle is their most effective lifeline to the out of doors international. For others, it’s serving to them suggest for jail reform.

“Most of the items I’ve edited purpose to percentage what being incarcerated is like in hopes of adjusting the gadget, whether or not that’s thru sharing nonfiction tales or sending letters and propositions to these in energy. Through providing comments, we will lend a hand polish writing ahead of it reaches a bigger target audience,” says The Readers’ Circle volunteer Rachel Robson, who graduated in 2022 from USC Dornsife with a bachelor’s stage in English and is now pursuing a Grasp of Arts in literary enhancing and publishing.

In all probability maximum vital, The Readers’ Circle has helped make those writers really feel extra human, an very important component for any a hit rehabilitation program.

“Simply realizing that there [are] organizations, universities and politicians keen to put money into me, then needless to say I’m [going to] put money into myself. It’s boosting my self assurance to pursue my objectives, goals and freedom,” wrote one player.

If you have an interest in volunteering with The Readers’ Circle, please sign-up right here.

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