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Doing Time on the Outside, Voices from Children of the Incarcerated

The force behind this program is Tanasha Gordon, a student from Central Islip High School who is member of Touro Law Center’s branch of Herstory’s Youth Writing for Justice Program. There, lawyers and teachers, law interns, and community activists write side by side with high school students, to learn to use personal memoir as a tool for re-examining attitudes, policies and laws. We also hear from Rachel Weiner, who worked with Tanasha through the Center for Peace at Central Islip High School, and Barbara Allan, founder and director of Prison Families Anonymous, a nonprofit organization providing education and support to families of the incarcerated. Both Rachel and Barbara have written side by side with Tanasha. Our host is Silvia Heredia of Herstory Writers Workshop.

Children of the Incarcerated Breaking out of the Silence

The program opens with Tanasha reading about what it means not to be able to know one’s parents in the ordinary, everyday ways, Calling on her readers and listeners to walk in her shoes, it quickly escalates into a cry for understanding of her mother’s goodness, taking us into moments of watching her mother go in and of jail. As Rachel and Barbara weave in their responses to the opening moments of the book that 18-year-old Tanasha is writing to help others, we become aware of the necessity to create safe nurturing spaces for young people to tell their stories in ways that will inform guidance counselors, teachers and school administrators, and the larger world of social service providers, government agencies and lawmakers.

Re-establishing the Connections/ Forgiveness, Empowerment and Love

Tanasha reads further into her story, as we see not only her own pain, but also her mother’s, and as we experience her rising to a new place of empowerment through restoring broken threads and finding a wholeness very rare in a young person her age. Barbara and Rachel continue to speak about the importance of giving children and siblings of the incarcerated a voice, the destructive aspect of telling children lies or half-truths about where their parents are, and the necessity to bring stories out into the open. Tanasha ends by sharing her dreams about what her book could become.

Herstory’s work with siblings and children of the incarcerated is funded by Tikkun Long Island, a new organization dedicated to restorative justice, New York State Council on the Arts, Arts Education Program, and Suffolk County’s Office of Probation. Herstory’s Justice Program is Funded by Long Island Community Foundation, Long island Unitarian Universalist Fund and the Horace and Amy Hagedorn Fund. We take the title of this program from Barbara Allan’s book in progress, Doing Time on the Outside.

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