“The EXODUS Program for incarcerated men uses the legendary story of captivity and the journey through the wilderness to the promised land as a model and a metaphor for the prison experience. Carol Fox Prescott visited each of our three groups in December of 2012 and presented the story of Miriam from her play “In The Voice of Our Mothers.” The content was particularly apt and gave a women’s point of view to the story and the prison struggle that is rare. Carol, as an actress presenting her own work, found a dynamic collaboration of actor and character. The men took to her as performer, teacher, and participant with respect and appreciation, and for some, awe. Carol also spent a few moments bringing attention and appreciation to the breath, a core principal in the acting technique she practices and teaches. Though the “lesson” was brief, there was immediate benefit for some of the members. We would love to have Carol Fox Prescott visit our groups in the future.”
Gordon W. Brown EXODUS Program Director
” What I found incredibly moving was that the more you got into the reading, the more I sensed the very presence of Miriam. And not just her presence, but I could “feel” her essence, her cares, her concerns, her joys; all that was cradled in her soul so many centuries ago. You brought that section of the Hebrew Scripture to life, and I felt blessed to be able to witness your reading.”
The Reverend Allan Ford, St. Margaret’s Episcopal Church, Staatsburg, NY
AND MY REFLECTIONS WITH GRATITUDE, DECEMBER 2012
I don’t know how to write about this. My feelings run so deep sometimes that they tumble over one another and become incomprehensible to me. The over all thought is one of waste. The waste to the men incarcerated but more than that, the waste to us. To our society, our culture, our humanity.
Three trips to three prisons; a double maximum security, a maximum security and a medium security. It is not my first time offering my skills inside prison walls, but these are not experiences that stay or fade. They haunt.
I sat within inches of a man who had spent years on death row. We held eye contact and smiled at each other, shyly at first and later with trust.
I offered them a way to breathe freely and take the time to really see one another. Together we all breathed and took the time to see one another. They were brave to follow me into the vulnerability of the moment. I listened to their thoughts and heard about their process of “humanizing themselves,” that they seem to have given their lives to, as a part of the program they are involved in, and why I was there.
To get there I drove with my friend, who has been volunteering one day a week for many years, to meet with men in one of these three “correctional facilities.” He brought me there to read an excerpt from my play, “In The Voice of Our Mothers,” which traces the journey of Exodus from the point of view of Miriam, known as the sister of Moses but a prophet in her own right.
And I was there to offer a short teaching about acting, and specifically the acting technique I have developed through the years, which is based on breathing. So I was there to offer freedom, creative, and emotional freedom to incarcerated men. Very long term incarcerated men. 25 to life. Life to life.
Yet they live in hope. They measure their days by how many programs the facilities offer, the size of the yard where they can spend time in the fresh air and sunshine, whether there is a wall around the buildings, whether they have TV or packages from home, weather there are college courses and degrees offered. And who has been achieved parole or clemency or pardon.
This program that my friend offers is a chance for men who were born into either poverty, or the drug culture, or families of incarcerated relatives. Maybe I saw 50 men in all and out of those 50 men two were white.
I told them that I would have been hard pressed to go outside the walls and find 50 men who would have been able to speak as honestly about their emotions, experiences and regard for one another out side of the walls. And the conversation was about art, philosophy, personal feelings and experiences and hope.
I can feel my liberal, commie, pinko bleeding heart break. I am proud to claim it. There were no walls between the men and me as long were in the rooms together because of the mutual respect we shared. Yet I don’t know what they did to wind up there. I saw the last group days after the Newtown, Ct. massacre. I don’t know whether or not the acts of these incarcerated men were as hideous as the act of the desperate young man who stole his mother’s guns, shot her and then went on to change the face of America. I only know that I was sitting in the room with men who were living the lives of people making amends. People who have so much to contribute to the world out here. And we are desperate for wisdom out here.
I want to forgive and start over. I want to open up the gates and raise our children with love instead of drugs and guns. I want to offer free education in every sense of the word, job trainings, beautiful places to live, and the chance to create, to praise. to imagine, to address grievances. I want to live in a world that respects it’s citizens and shares in its abundance.
Everything in me aches for such a world. I actually believe in it. I know there are hideous acts done by millions of people but I can’t give up the hope that they are in direct reaction to the hideous acts done to them.
So I drive into the mountains with my friend Gordon, into the beautiful Catskill Mountains and I see the ugly, florescent lighted buildings where we warehouse a huge proportion of our sisters and brothers and I pray that my presence, my time with them, my love for them will make a difference. Yet I ask myself, how long would that love last if I were on the other side of their crimes? I pray that my heart does not close but I don’t know how much strength I actually have and I pray also that I never be tested in such a way.
Still, I carry their courage with me. I think about them waking up each morning knowing they will not see their families, make decisions on what they will eat for breakfast, who they will see during the day. I can feel them lying down to sleep at night, alone in their cells, but without privacy, as their thoughts take over and remind them of where they are and why.
I think about the stupid things I have done in my life that might have, yes even did get out of hand. And although I have never touched a real gun or gotten hooked on alcohol or drugs, I have certainly felt rage and envy and injustice. I am lucky. I never got caught. I always had somewhere to go where I would be taken care of, held and soothed.
Carol Fox Prescott