For the past three years my students at Nannestad vgs have been writing and receiving letters from inmates all over the United States of America. We write to juveniles who have been incarcerated as adults where many of them are serving life without parole. Their ages differ as some of them who were sentenced as thirteen and fourteen olds are now in their thirties. The youngest inmate we are in touch with was sentenced when he was twelve. Others have only been in prison for four, maybe five years. A few of the inmates are mentally disabled and have an intelligence level of a first grader. Their crimes vary from parricide, to robbery and felony murder. Most of them are victims of abuse, poverty, neglect and drug use. For the moment we are only writing to males, however, we will be expanding our list and project to reach out to females.
Our interest for all of this started after watching the documentary film and the students expressed a great desire to write to the two individuals in the movie, Colt Lundy and Miles Folsom. The letter writing developed on its own and gave us knowledge and insight. The letters the students received in return not only contained the prisoners’ stories, but poems they had composed, reflections and discussions on books they had read and some very beautiful artwork. We are in touch with many intelligent and talented young people here. This has motivated students to reflect and ponder on their own lives, as the inmates have helped them put into words the emotions they feel, and burdens they carry. The project has been most successful with our at risk students, our students with special needs and our advanced students who seek more knowledge and the opportunities to obtain it.
Here are some examples of the various activities and tasks that this has lead to:
A promo video
We made a video of our newly produced album of the poetry we have received. Our album is called from the title of the autobiography of Miles Folsom, Wabash Valley Correctional Facility in Carlisle, Indiana. Any money to be made from the album when it is put out on Spotify and iTunes will go to an educational fund for young inmates.
The inmates will frequently make and send gifts with their letters. To the right is one example. It is a bracelet made out of thick rolled-up paper and colored string. Enclosed below are also some excerpts of letters written by our students to the inmates.
During the school year of 2014/2015 our English for Social Studies students and our jurisprudence students joined up to do a cooperative task looking at the court cases themselves. The focus was to tear apart the inmates’ cases to see why and how they were sentenced. Some students made presentations while others made videos that they shared with our first year students, VG1 SSP. Below is a link to a sample video made by two of the students last year. It concentrates on the case of The Elkhart 4, which was a felony murder case where the owner of the premises that was being robbed shot and killed one of the young boys who was on his property and in his home.
A semester paper
Some students joined up with Colt Lundy to expand on the research he had carried out in connection with the college course he was taking while inside the prison system. Our students accessed wider databases and sources to enhance and contribute to the information Colt Lundy had found. This culminated in a semester paper called “Convicts, Communities and the State” from the title of Colt Lundy’s research paper.
Last but not least, two of our graduated media and communications students, Andreas Lange and Markus Tangre, made a video of our school. It is an upper secondary institution that provides two-year vocational studies in Health and Social Sciences, Restaurant and Food Processing, Services and Sales and Media and Communications. Other college bound programs include Sports Science and General Studies. Here you can see the film https://vimeo.com/52566536.
Marianne T. Ruud