A year and a half ago, in the Carrboro Century Center, I saw the most amazing performance: the North Carolina Women's Prison Repertory Company, founded by Judith Reitman. As I blogged it at the time, this project, which involves writing as well as performing, is a lifeline for these women--women who have done terrible things and are paying the price, but who are not beyond hope of redemption. Rather, they desperately need constructive tools for finding their way back through remorse and redemption to wholeness. Ordinary prison life doesn't give them that: far from it.
In the comments to my blog entry, a reader wondered if I was suggesting that they did not deserve their punishment. Not at all, and that's not what I heard them say either. But I do believe that a person can do a terrible thing and be genuinely sorry and that society has an obligation to help such a person on that journey through atonement to forgiveness. As I said in that comment thread, it's as if we've forgotten the root of the word "penitentiary." I realize it's not a view universally held.
You can catch the Women's Prison Reportory Company tomorrow night at the ArtsCenter. You won't be sorry.