Write what you know, the adage says. But inmates of the Anthony P. Travisono Intake Service Center in Cranston, RI, who take part in the prison’s creative writing program might be able to turn that around to write in order to know yourself, and even, perhaps, to draw closer to God.
Tim Maynard, KM, Ed.D. started the writing program in 2021 after obtaining a master’s degree in creative writing at the American College in Dublin, Ireland. Coming from a devoted Catholic family (His father was one of the first men to be ordained in the permanent diaconate program created in the 1970s. His wife and several siblings are also members in the Order), Tim felt called to Prison Ministry. The writing program was a way to use his skills to serve. A prior newsletter story introduced the program to the Order two years ago. We decided to check back in to see how it has evolved, and it certainly has.
Tim noted that, at first, the men wrote about the basics of prison life, being stuck behind bars, owning guns, missing girlfriends. “Everything was about themselves and how they ended up where they did,” Tim said. “I think they needed a catharsis, but they are beyond that now. They are opening up their creative minds to reach outside of their circumstances.”
Tim gives two examples:
- One writer, who used to write about gangs, recently created a poem about finding God in the beauty of snow. “At the very beginning of that poem, he’s reflecting that he’s stuck in a cell, and he just barely can look out his safety glass to see a little bit of snow. He has a very narrow view, and so he’s probably pondering if God exists. But then he sees the beauty of the earth, the birds, and the snow. He realizes that, regardless of what his condition is, he can find a little bit of peace and comfort knowing God is right with him.”
- Another writes about looking to the heavens, searching for hope. “He thinks that he’s done so much damage in the world that he’s going to go to hell,” Tim said. “And so I’m actually still working with him, helping him to know forgiveness is real.”
It may have started as a recreational activity, but the creative writing program has evolved to be so much more, a way to seek God’s beauty, hope and forgiveness.
If you would like to learn more about the American Association’s Prison Ministry programs, please email Craig Gibson, Chair of the Prison Ministry Committee at email@example.com.