Sociology Professor Creates Expressive Program for Inmates
A Kent State University professor is hoping a literacy project he developed will help inmates to see themselves as writers rather than convicts.
Christopher Dum, Ph.D., assistant professor of sociology, created the ID13 Prison Literacy Project to give men in Lake Erie Correctional Institution in Conneaut, Ohio, a positive outlet while serving their sentence.
“We have the criminal justice system that has decided, in a sense, what people can or can’t do in society,” Dr. Dum told Cleveland Magazine. “The guys in the prison have already gone through that apparatus. They’ve already been tried and sentenced.”
The ID13 program has presented the men’s work for the past two years, both online and at public readings.
“I think that it’s important to show not everyone has forgotten them or views them as untouchable or not worthy of human connection,” Dr. Dum told Cleveland Magazine. “In a sense, it’s trying to add a different narrative. If you Google this person’s name, maybe you’ll find a poem or some artwork by them instead.”
Dr. Dum has been awarded a three-year grant of $8,000 each year from Kent State University for his work with the inmates. The grant will be used to research how participation in the writing group affects the inmates and how their writing impacts the general public.
The program is working to expand by giving individuals Polaroid cameras to document their re-entry journey into society.
“Things don’t end when you leave prison,” Dr. Dum told Cleveland Magazine. “I think it would be a horrible dereliction of moral duty not to continue those relationships on the outside in terms of involving them in everything the program gave to them on the inside.”
To read more about Dr. Dum’s ID13 Prison Literacy Project, visit https://clevelandmagazine.com/in-the-cle/the-read/articles/how-a-prison-writing-group-is-helping-inmates-find-their-voice