Incarceration in America

For three semesters, Annabel Davis-Goff has taught a course at Bennington College on Incarceration in America that has included a variety of speakers on this subject. This course is part of the program of The Center for the Advancement of Political Action (CAPA) at Bennington. We invited Annabel to be on our radio program to talk about a play The Castle, that was going to be presented at the college.

The Castle is a building on Riverside Drive in New York City that provides housing and services for people who have been incarcerated to help them become reintegrated into society. The Castle is part of the work of The Fortune Society. Based on Shakespeare’s sonnet 29 “When in disgrace with fortune and men’s eyes, I all alone beweep my outcast state, …” The Fortune Society provides a variety of services for those men and women newly released from prison.

The play originated with its director, David Rothenberg, and was presented at the off-Broadway Theatre New World Stages in 2008. Since then it has toured to many colleges and organizations.

Bob and I went to see the play at the college on Tuesday, March 17. There were four people, three men and one woman with sixty years of prison time between them. They introduced themselves and told their stories. At the conclusion of the play, each person stood up and reintroduced him or herself, saying where they were in their lives now and ending with “And I am a taxpayer.”

As far as I am concerned this is what theatre is all about, sharing experiences with those on the stage that change how you see the world. Bob and I thought that we have never seen more centered people who had achieved a sense of self through their suffering and the support The Fortune Society offered. Victor Rojas said this was the account of a journey that was not finished, but where they were on that journey provided that hope for the audience that Shakespeare yearned to find. Casimiro Torres, who had been in institutions and foster homes since he was six, noted   “To heal, you must be vulnerable and the last place you want to be vulnerable is prison. You don’t have friends in prison, alliances, but no friends”. The Castle offered that friendship and assistance. The Castle has one rule, No violence, which as Vilma Ortiz-Donavan pointed out, is hard for those who have been in prison where violence is everywhere.

In the talk back, David Rothenberg noted that Rory Anderson  had said to him,  “Crime doesn’t pay,” but Rothenberg pointed out that it did for those who built the prisons and filled them and staffed them them and had service contracts. Prison is a big business There are alternatives to prison that our society rarely considers. One wonders if so many of the services that are constantly being cut would be if people in government could hear these stories.

Here is the program with Annabel Davis-Goth and some videos of David Rothenberg and Joanne Page, the head of The Fortune Society.

If you don’t see the link to the broadcast, just click the url.

Annabel Davis-Goth      Theatre Talk-030915-Part 1

Theatre Talk-030915-Part 2

David Rothenberg 

Joanne Page and The Fortune Society