Theresa in New Mexico asks: I thoroughly enjoyed watching the documentary. I am a victim of abuse. Fortunately, my life took a different turn and I am happy and well adjusted. I can’t help but think that it could have been me in jail. My heart goes out to these ladies… and yes, they do deserve love — like everyone — even if they did make a bad decision. I would like to write to one or more of the inmates. How would I go about getting a letter to them?
Judith Katz: Dear Theresa, you are so fortunate to have transcended early abuse and to be happy and well adjusted now. You can write to the women c/o Bedford Hills Correctional Facility, in Bedford Hills, New York.
Anna in California asks: When will you publish the writings of the women from the workshop? I would love to own volumes of their courageous and honest words.
Judith: Dear Anna, we are talking about publishing their work but I don’t know when that will happen. When it does, I am sure it will be publicized. Thank you for your kind words about the women’s writing, we will pass on your compliments.
Ellen in Florida asks: I LOVED this! Saw most of it on PBS last night, and found the questions thoughtfully provoking. Could I obtain a copy of the exercises?
Judith: Dear Ellen, thank you for appreciating our film, Eve’s work with them and the women’s words. We do pass on to the women every compliment that comes our way. We have not yet published the work in book form, but when we do it will be publicized. If you are interested in purchasing the film, you can find more information on the side of this page.
Robyn in Massachusetts asks: Have any of the women in the group been able to meet with members of their victim’s families as a result of the family member seeing this movie? I understand this can be beneficial to both parties and after watching and being moved by what the women were saying, I hoped this would have happened.
Judith: Dear Robyn, to my knowledge, the women have not met with the members of the victim’s families; and we do not know if the victim’s families have seen the film.
Charlie in North Carolina asks: I am 23 years old. I saw your documentary this evening on PBS. I was flipping the channels, trying to get to David Letterman when I saw Glenn Close reading something. I stopped. Thirty minutes later I had tears dripping from my chin, falling onto my shirt. I wanted to say thank you for disrupting my normal Tuesday night with a message of pure joy and faith. I know that the PBS-watching crowd rarely includes males my age, so I thought perhaps it would encourage you all to know that the “plate is being passed.” My question is this — how did you all find one another, and how do programs like these get a) noticed and b) funded?
Judith: Dear Charlie, we are very pleased that our film had such a strong impact on a young man your age. Yes, it is encouraging! I have respected Eve Ensler’s work for some time; I attended a play she directed ten year ago. When she invited me to come to Bedford Hills Correctional Facility to see a performance of the prisoner’s work I was moved and wanted to share it with others who might also be moved (like yourself!) Gary Sunshine and Madeleine Gavin were both students of Eve at NYU.
Knocking on many doors and not stopping until someone agreed to fund the project secured our funding. That is the same way we got noticed; applying to Sundance and being accepted as a documentary in competition was certainly a big help. Keep passing that plate, and thank you for your interest in the women and our film.
Carole in Illinois asks: I have thought about the fact that some people are defined by their worst deeds, some by their best deeds. How worthwhile to help these women get in touch with their feelings. This is rehabilitation of the soul. How can I help?
Judith: Dear Carol, thank you for your support and appreciation for Eve’s work and our film. You can help by continuing to pass on your thoughtful, compassionate attitudes, and, if you are interested in helping women at Bedford Hills Correctional Facility in college specifically go to the website for the Women’s Prison Education Partnership. Or start a volunteer program at a prison in your area.
Jeanne in California asks: Did you start with a larger pool of women and then narrow it down to this group? Would you say that they are representative of most of the women in the prison, in terms of how they feel about their crimes and their situations?
Judith: Dear Jeanne, Eve’s original writing group started with approximately twelve women. As women are transferred to other prisons or released, she interviews other women to fill the vacancies. She tries to keep the group diverse with regard to age, education, race and ethnic background. I would say that most all the women in the prison struggle with their crimes to one degree or another. As Glenn Close says in our film, “they are not all there,” by which she means they are at different levels of taking responsibility. Many factors contribute to their development, including the length of time they have been in prison, whether they participate in various educational programs, especially the college bound classes (I witnessed this as a volunteer teacher, which I have been for four years) and of course their mental health. Several women in prison should be in a mental health facility or a drug rehabilitation program.
Jacquelynn in Virginia asks: I am working at a Juvenile Correctional Facility with female adolescents. I would love to know about the structure of your program and any tips/pointers you have as to getting a similar program started and keeping it going. The young women I work with love to write!
Judith: Dear Jacquelynn, Eve began her group by interviewing women who expressed interest in writing. From the onset of the group, Eve insists on trust, confidentiality and mutual support. In other words, the group is a place of safety. This must be adhered to. She meets with the women once a week, whenever she is in New York. From running my own group (theatre not writing), I can say that consistency is crucial. Also, you must of course have the support of the facility administrators; Supt. Elaine Lord was extremely supportive. As you see in the film, Eve gives the women a topic to write about and they work on their assignments during the week. In class they read the assignments and Eve and the group comment. She did not start out with big questions, but rather those that allow the women to share as much or as little as they are ready to. I would like to add that you must have patience. Getting the women to open up, and actually write about their feelings and their lives, may be frustrating, but if you remain devoted to the group, eventually it will begin to click. Good luck.
Jan in Texas asks: Has Eve expanded her writing program to any facilities other than the Bedford facility? Do you have any advice for me if I would like to work with inmates in this way? My training is as a counselor and writing is my own outlet and a tool of personal transformation. I want to make a difference in this world.
Judith: Dear Jan, Eve has not expanded her program to other correctional facilities. She is a full time playwright and activist and runs V-Day, a non-profit global organization committed to stop violence against girls and women, so it is a small miracle that she finds the time to work with the writing group at Bedford Hills. Her commitment to them is strong however, and my advice to you is, if you have a strong commitment, to find a facility in your area and contact them regarding a program. Many prisons have volunteer coordinators who can help with such a request. Again, I must say, you will encounter challenges, from the prisoners themselves, and sometimes from the community and even the staff. Not everyone believes prison is a place for reform and transformation, but rather a place for punishment. With that reality in mind, I suggest you forge ahead and try to make a difference. I wish you the
For those who are interested in finding ways to help, check out the Bedford Hills prison programs highlighted in About the Film.