“What Are We Waiting For?” A new collection of poems, essays, and artwork showcase stories about the impact of the justice system on the lives of families in Maine and New York

The University’s Place Matters project has released a new anthology in collaboration with the Opportunity Scholars project and the Right/Write To Heal Initiative based at the Columbia University Center for Justice (CfJ) in New York. The collection, titled “What Are We Waiting For?”, tells the stories of women and their families who have been impacted by incarceration in Maine and New York, the pathways that brought them to justice system involvement, and what inspires them to remain hopeful. 

These stories of family, love, loss, time, and hope were written by residents at the Southern Maine Women’s Reentry Center and the Women’s Center at the Maine Correctional Center as part of a weekly creative writing group facilitated by the Right/Write to Heal Initiative in collaboration with Opportunity Scholars, the Place Matters project, and the Maine Department of Corrections. Pieces from the partners in New York and other partners were added to highlight their unique perspectives as well. The authors and editors of this anthology hope that this work will bring awareness to the issues that impact these families and inspire change. 

As written by two of the editors who go by D.W. and N.L in this collection, “When a woman is incarcerated, her loved ones are deeply affected too…These women express trauma, pain, struggles, and loss, but most importantly they focus on their strengths. These women are refusing to be lost in a narrative that is not their own.

The collection is dedicated to all the children who have been impacted by parental incarceration and the authors and editors hope to bring awareness to the experience of these children and their parents to inspire change. They hope it will help to increase supports for families who have been impacted by the justice system to help them break the cycles of intergenerational incarceration, poverty, and trauma that so often are intertwined in stories such as those highlighted in this anthology. 

Read their stories in the anthology here