This NY Times article caught my eye for quite a few reasons.
My first thought, as a nonprofit ED of a community writing organization that provides hundreds of writing workshops for the incarcerated and formerly incarcerated, was to wonder why NYWC has such a hard time getting journalists to cover our work. Here’s one workshop with 25 cops, writing crime novels. Just what we need, more people that are over represented getting more attention.
But it is of course not as simple as that. I am far from a fan of the police as a general population, especially at a time when stop-and-frisk policies affect the daily lives of the people of color of my city, but if leading writing workshops with diverse populations has taught me anything, it is that every single person is a distinct individual, with their own story, history and voice that is worth listening to. Maybe not in the form of crime novels necessarily, but if individual police officers got a chance to tell the stories of what they see each day, they may write about some of the very same things NYWC’s writers write about. This quote from a police officer about someone she arrested really stood out to me:
“I remember thinking, How is it that I’m where I am and he’s where he is?” she said. “How did we get to each other’s lives from separate worlds?”
The truth is there is often not really much difference between those being arrested and those doing the arresting. Perhaps it is uncomfortable to admit, there is not much difference among the rest of us either, when we get down to it. And if the rate we incarcerate citizens continues at its current pace, chances are that statement will become literally true, because it will become harder and harder to find people that have never been imprisoned.