Speaking from the Grave

Well, we meet again, Mr. Webb, but this time it's under different
circumstances. I'm speaking to you from the grave and you're in the
penitentiary.

Healing Words: Creative Writing Programs as Therapy for Kids in Detention

ANNISTON, Ala. -- Mercy Pilkington’s classroom, at first glance, seems like any other in the nation’s public school system. Novels penned by John Steinbeck and Harper Lee are stacked over a U-shaped row of cubicles. The walls are lined with laminated posters; crayon-colored cutouts of chubby red robins and lime-green pigs are pasted on the room’s sole window. Pilkington, 39, has taught for 11 years.

For Kids in Juvenile Detention, Creating Hope Through Writing and Art

For the better part of the last two decades, The Beat Within has been committed to a mission of providing incarcerated youth with a forum where they can write (and draw) about the things that matter most to them, explore how they have lost connection with those things they value, and consider how they might re-connect to positive situations in their lives through the power of the written word. This is a program that started small, in the Bay Area, with a commitment to provide detained kids between the ages of 11 to 18 with a safe space to share their ideas and experiences while promoting literacy, self-expression, some critical thinking skills, and healthy, supportive relationships with adults and their community. That modest local effort has grown into a nationwide program that touches the lives of more than 5,000 youth in detention. Today, you can find weekly Beat workshops going on in 12 California county juvenile halls, from Alameda to San Diego. We are partnering with universities from U.C. Berkeley to the University of Hawaii.

Letter from Prison

Michael Cabral got his GED last year while serving 15 to life for murder.  On the back of his diploma he proudly wrote: “One step closer to home.”  And that’s not all Cabral is writing. He joined a writing workshop called The Beat Within, which encourages young people in prison to share their ideas and life experiences with writing instructors. The program changed him. From his cell in a California prison Cabral wrote this letter, which The Beat Within has shared with us:

Mi Carnalito,

Where do I begin? I was recently told a little bit about you by a mutual friend who is very concerned for you.