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Inmates Explore Meaning and Rehabilitation Through Creative Expression

10/28/2020 

Rhode Island Member Runs Writing Program

At the end of September, the Anthony P. Travisono Intake Service Center in Cranston, RI, allowed volunteers to return to the prison after having been closed to visitors because of Covid-19 restrictions. That made it possible for Order of Malta member Tim Maynard, KM, (Boston Area) to begin a creative writing program for the inmates. The center’s retired chaplain, Martha Paone, and current chaplain, Father Lazarus Onuh, had been looking for an activity to supplement the religious programs, providing the men another outlet. Since Tim had just returned from finishing a master’s degree in creative writing at the American College in Dublin, Martha asked him to come up with something.

The result is an eight-week program where participants, who have been given notebooks to develop their writing, meet weekly to share their work. Tim provides prompts that emphasize different aspects of creative writing such as character, theme, setting, and point of view. “They read what they’ve written, and we all talk about what points they’ve made,” Tim said. “It is amazing how thought-provoking and sometimes lyrical the stories are.”

Tim sees the Holy Spirit at work both in terms of his role and the response of the prisoners. “First of all, it takes the Holy Spirit to provide the courage for me to go into the prison,” he said. “And it takes the Holy Spirit for the inmates to step forward and write about some of the things they’ve done or what they’ve been through.” Tim gives an example of one inmate in the program who wrote about how he had had to eat cereal with a fork because his mother kept stealing the spoons to cook crack cocaine. “It takes the Holy Spirit for someone to be willing to tell that to his friends,” Tim said. “This is truly God’s work as the prisoners explore meaning and rehabilitation through creative expression.”

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