Tuesday, November 21, 2006


In February 2005, I saw, and blogged about, a most amazing performance given by members of the North Carolina Women's Prison Repertory Company. One of them was Regina Walters. She has completed her prison sentence, and her story is the subject of a new performance, set for December 1, at the ArtsCenter in Carrboro.

Hindsight beyond 20/20. "Rewind" traces the steps and missteps that led an enthusiastic cheerleader and talented ballerina to life as North Carolina prison inmate #0423358. Recently released from prison, this former member of the N.C. Women's Prison Repertory Ensemble was incarcerated for 12 years. Now Regina looks frankly at the personal traumas and choices that landed her at 17 in an alley beside a man with a gun and at the challenges and uncertainties of her new life outside.

The question that the 2005 performance raised for me was this: what are prisons for, punishment or rehabilitation? It seemed that the state was not so interested in rehabilitation. Yet these women, dreadfully sorry for dreadful things they had done, were searching desperately for a way back: to wholeness, to some promise of life after they had paid their proverbial dues. The state was not offering that; but at least this program was. Still I wonder what the state has to offer to Regina Walters and others on their return to society. One of the issues that keeps surfacing in our discussions about homelessness in Orange County is the critical lack of planning and transitional services available to people discharged from prison. (Ex-cons aren't exactly welcomed by employers either.)

Regina Walters will be at the performance for discussion afterward. I hope to be there too.

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