After Serving Prison Term in Niantic, Performers Capture Struggle of Re-Entry | Connecticut Public Radio

After Serving Prison Term in Niantic, Performers Capture Struggle of Re-Entry

Sep 9, 2016

The production includes stories from children of incarcerated parents.

Life after prison presents multiple challenges as ex-offenders re-enter society. 

In an upcoming artistic performance in Hartford, ex-offenders from the York Correctional Institution in Niantic help demonstrate some those struggles through spoken word and dance. It’s the latest piece from the Judy Dworin Performance Project called "Brave in a New World."

Reconnecting with family, finding work, and the guilt from the rippling pain they’ve caused are some of the issues former inmates grapple with when they’re released from prison.  In her production, Dworin presents the stories of women who’ve re-entered society. It also includes stories from children of incarcerated parents.

Speaking on WNPR’s Where We Live, Dworin talked about the decision to include the voices of children.

"Kids carry it around as a very tightly held secret," Dworin said. "So it felt to me like that story really needed to counterpoint this one of coming home, because I think they are a population that isn’t heard. And so it was thinking of a way to bring their voices in, but also protect their anonymity. They’re part of the sound score. We hear their wonderful voices." 

Dworin specifically focused on the women from the York Correctional Institution, Connecticut’s only state prison for female offenders.

Leesa Srams is one of the performers in the project and a former inmate. She said sharing her story through writing, dancing, and singing has helped her be a better mother.

Performer Leesa Srams with dancers Haley Zdebski and Melissa Craig in "Brave in a New World."
Credit John Atashian / Judy Dworin Performance Project, Inc.

"Writing with Judy, you know, you learn to heal," Srams said.  "And I had made so many mistakes in my son’s life. Not being there physically, but trying to be there mentally and emotionally, it’s kind of difficult when you’re incarcerated and he had a lot of anger. So, we got to a point where we could actually deal with all of that."

Srams is one of four ex-inmates joining the professional ensemble of the Judy Dworin Performance Project.

“Brave in a New World” premieres September 15, at the Greater Hartford Academy of the Arts.