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Doing Our Time on the Outside
100 Stories Project

In Partnership with the Humanities Institute at Stony Brook University, the Criminology Program at Hofstra University, Prison Families Alliance, and Humanities New York

Doing our Time on the Outside, Prison Family and Reentry Voices for a Change, a project funded by Humanities NY, takes its title from a groundbreaking book by Barbara Allan, founder of Prison Families Anonymous, written in a Herstory workshop that brought together high school students with parents in prison, law students and criminal justice system reformers.

The Visit by Gwynne Duncan

Beginning in the summer of 2022, Herstory workshop facilitators have been inviting justice-impacted writers to help change the narrative of incarceration. With support from Humanities New York, Herstory facilitators have partnered with staff at prisons, re-entry programs, youth programs, and shelters to invite some of our society’s most marginalized writers to this platform. We are more than halfway to our goal of collecting 100 stories, and already we can see how listening to individual experiences of incarceration changes our hearts and minds—now it is up to us to help these stories change policy.


It is our hope that the stories generated by this project will be widely read and passed from one person to another, through our websites and the websites of our partners in carceral justice reform, though social media and newsletters, that they will be taught in criminology classes, used to train correction officers and police, and in presentations to legislators, probation, and parole officers, and shared with people impacted behind and beyond bars.


The first step in these efforts is to share these stories with you—our readers! While we are waiting for many pieces to be approved by several different Departments of Correction—a necessary step that both challenges and motivates this project—we are delighted to begin sharing work from writers on the outside. Our first collection of stories includes memories from people living in shelters in Denver, participants in youth and reentry programs on Long Island, and members of Prison Families Alliance, STRONG Youth, and formerly incarcerated people who have worked with Herstory over the years. We invite you to listen to these writers by reading their work and to please spread the word!

Paintings by Gwynne Duncan

Humanities Institute at Stony Brook University 


Story Topics

We invite you to view a pdf version of the zine I Don't Really Know Where to Start, which compiles stories about incarceration written by people living in shelters across Denver. 




There was a chill in the air as I walked to my cab. I had been waiting for this moment for 3 years. As I got in and we pulled away from the place I called home, my stomach got queasy and I felt nauseous. As we went down the mountain side, I watched the world go by. When we made a turn, the contents that were in my stomach ended up on the floorboard and a wave of heat hit my face from embarrassment. I got this fear of dread because of the unknown that lay ahead.

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Things Get Real in the Field

Dwight Seay aka Blessed

First of all, let me give praise to the most high!

Jail to me was a hard lesson to learn. Back in my days 80s 90s we had rules now there is no rules… Back there you had to have permission to rumble now they just free fall. Jail taught me structure respect and not to judge a man.

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Just a Simple Phone Call

Cassandria Ramona Faircloth-Carmouche

That one and only phone call that could have been made, that should have been made wasn’t made.  Why? The guilt, shame, and embarrassment from where I was actually located kept me from making that phone call.  The caller ID would read Van Cise-Simonet Detention Center. How could I make a collect call to my father saying I was in custody and going to jail.

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The dictionary describes jail as a place for the confinement of people accused or convicted of a crime. This definition is 100% true but there is a deeper definition especially for those who have personally dealt with incarceration, like I. The most basic fact that everybody knows is that your freedom gets taken away, so does your dignity… As an incarcerated individual, you get absolutely no respect. How could you expect that when you have committed a crime?

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The Hot Seat

Truman Sanchez

Tears come to my eyes when I think about a 10x8 cell surrounded by bars, a metal bed, a desk, a toilet, and a sink, squeezed all in one cell in Buena Vista State Penitentiary. A program called Therapeutic Community. I call it forced sobriety, a reprogramming community to tell the truth.

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As I lay in bed, a crisp chill is around the windowsill and I’m looking at the snow falling in large beautiful flakes. Each flake has its own design, and I’m thinking that like everything else in creation, so do fingerprints.

           Because the bed I’m lying on is not my own. It is my bunk, in a large dorm of about 40 other women. And I somehow feel lucky, even locked up, that I have a bed right next to the window, where as the seasons change I get a certain show of beauty from mother nature. 

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The Struggle is Real


It’s 2AM on a Monday morning. I hear “Robbins get your stuff, you’re out.” I’m half asleep when the guard tells me this, so I wasn’t sure if I was dreaming or not. Then she yells at me a second time to hurry up. I jumped out of my bunk, grabbed my blanket, pillow and bag with all the standard issued jail items they gave me at booking & I was out the door. 

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Trusting the Process


My name is --------. Living in a house with both my parents and my six siblings was very challenging. We all had a good life. My parents took good care of us, we had what we needed. They were very strict parents. Watching my brothers and sister go through their ups and downs with the law, going in and out of jail, I remember going to visit my brothers in prison and it was not a nice place to go.

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Trust and Believe, Amen


It came again. That very first horrifying night terror that started the whole ball rolling. Darkness, me running for my life from something so evil it could make my heart stop, turning as I fall, looking up into a pair of extremely menacing eyes, waking up instantly, realizing I am back in my own special cell, tied down again.

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Close Relationships

Gia S.

I remember walking into that pod in prison. My first day I was so scared and felt so alone. The faces, the smell, the ugly hard concrete columns and floors. But then I was approached by a man with a bright smile and in his hand he had a cup of coffee. He spoke and said, you thirsty? I felt like I could take a breath. 

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This One Hurts

Shaniqua Vereen

I wake up to do my normal routine and decided to go do my laundry early on a Thursday morning. It to me seemed like everything was ok... As I'm packing my laundry to leave a detective walked through the laundromat and I'm not thinking anything from that so I continue to walk out the back door.

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The Turn Around


For as long as I can remember I was affected by the criminal justice system. I would visit my uncles, brothers, and cousins with my grandmother and mother, who both, no matter what they did, supported them. From a very young age I was able to see the effects it took on my family financially as well as mentally. Watching my mother raise her children with the help of her mother showed me that in the event of an emergency never fold. I witnessed my brother in 1980 being dragged out of his bed by the police.

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