Poetic Justice is a nonprofit based in Tulsa that brings creative writing programs to incarcerated women. It began in 2014 and has since grown to include programs in California, South Carolina and Mexico.
Oklahoma is the state that has the highest incarceration rate of women. Poetic Justice aims to “rewrite the narrative about women who are incarcerated by equipping them with tools for healing from trauma, showing the world their inherent worth, that they may be agents of change.” Some of the women who participated in Poetic Justice’s programs are initially skeptical, but have come to enjoy it as it has had a positive impact in their lives, as the Black Wall Street Times reported.
One of the initiatives that Poetic Justice has undertaken is their creative writing program, which they have been running since the beginning. Since their founding, over 300 people have volunteered with the nonprofit, working together to bring creative writing to over 3,000 incarcerated women.
Siara Jacobs, a Tulsan who has been volunteering with Poetic Justice since 2019, said “writing with the women in Poetic Justice is a transformative experience for all involved. Each in-person class or letter exchanged breathes life into the group’s goals: using the magic of poetry and relationship to lift up individual voices, instill and cultivate hope, and demonstrate the power to change.”
Prior to COVID-19, Poetic Justice also began to offer visual art and drama as well. Although the pandemic has placed restrictions on what the non-profit can offer, they are still running their creative writing programs through a Distance Learning program.
According to their website, Poetic Justice has been able to offer “four Distance Learning sessions with almost 400 participants and over 200 volunteers.” Recently, Poetic Justice put out a call on social media asking for more volunteers to participate in their distance learning programs.
Poetic Justice is one of the few nonprofits in the country running a program based on distance learning. The program runs for an average of eight to 10 weeks. Volunteers are paired with an incarcerated woman and a new prompt is sent out every two weeks. Both respond to the same writing prompt and share their finished pieces with each other. At the end of the program, all of the writing will be published in an anthology and copies will be given to people who participated in the program.
“Personally, volunteering with PJ fills me with optimism, even in the current state of the criminal justice system. Our poets find ways to connect with themselves and others through their writing and sharing and reflecting, and in those precious moments of connection, the seeds of change are sown,” Jacobs added.
Poetic Justice is always in need of volunteers, whether that is for their distance learning programs, fundraising or help with administrative tasks. The deadline to sign-up for the March 1 training session has passed, but Poetic Justice will hold more classes in the future.
Students at the University of Tulsa are in a unique position to volunteer due to the opportunities afforded to students who volunteer through True Blue Neighbors. Those who are juniors or seniors can earn three credit-hours from volunteering up to 160 hours through the Public Service Internship. Some students may also be eligible to participate in the Community Service Work Study, in which they are compensated for their work with a local nonprofit.
To learn more about True Blue Neighbors service initiatives, contact firstname.lastname@example.org.