Marking Time: Creativity Behind Bars
Writing > Writing: News/Feature (1,000+ Words)
Best of CASE District V Award
Institution: Miami University
Title of entry: Marking Time: Creativity Behind Bars
About this entry: “Why” is the easiest of these three questions. “Marking Time: Creativity Behind Bars” features an alumna of ours, Nicole Fleetwood, who received a MacArthur Fellow. Considering the national prestige of the "Genius Grant," we were definitely going to write about her.
“How” to write the article was the challenge. Her research focuses on prisoners and the institutions that incarcerate them, removing them from all that they love. In focusing on humanity and justice, Nicole puts aside the question of guilt or innocence. It was unlikely our readers would do the same.
So I set out to create a bond between Nicole and the readers. I wanted them to empathize with her. The first in her family to graduate from college, she could hardly celebrate when her cousin was sentenced to life in prison three weeks after her commencement. I opened the article with her in the courtroom nearly collapsing as her cousin received his sentence. Readers needed to understand and maybe even feel her pain to comprehend her passion for her work, which she started after she began noticing the elaborate art prisoners created out of nothing more than cigarette pack foil and used tea bags. It was important that readers become intrigued by the creativity prisoners tapped into in an attempt to save their sanity.
This is not a story about guilt or innocence, but about one woman’s deep concern for humanity, especially for those behind bars.