A play about formerly incarcerated women who are struggling to rebuild their lives is a popular production in Illinois.
“The show is about women coming through the prison system, starting with challenges in their life, then coming out, returning home, and looking to transform their life,” said Mars Caulton, program facilitator for the Still Point program, which sponsors the production.
“There should be a sense (that) there’s something joyous near the end of this,” Caulton said of the short play called “The Visiting Room.”
The show is designed to shed new light and provide insight into the lives of formerly incarcerated women. It was performed at Lewis University in Romoeville, Illinois, according to the July 27 National Catholic Reporter.
Still Point was established in 1993 by Lisa Wagner-Carollo. Its new chapter is the program at Grace House, which is a voluntary transitional program offered for women in Chicago. The program is sponsored by St. Leonard’s Ministries.
“Just to see that they can accomplish things, set a goal and follow through, I think is very empowering,” said Wagner-Carollo.
The goal of Grace House is to allow those who have never been inside a prison to understand that inmates are human. The fact that they’ve made a mistake in life doesn’t define them.
“People have strong emotional responses to that piece because you have someone looking into your eyes, telling you, ‘I was just like you. I cared about these things. I had a loving mother. I liked to date.’” said Hector Alvarez, former manager of Still Point.
“But then, of course, to some degree this person is also not like you because their life journey has taken them on a very, very different path… It kind of forces us to realize that some of us are born with privilege, and that means that we don’t have to make certain choices in our lives that could lead to being in prison.”
The performances allow the public to connect with formerly incarcerated women. They also allow formerly incarcerated women to re-connect to society.
Performance for Grace House allows inmates “to feel they have something helpful to contribute to society, and I think that performing for audiences who have not been in jail feels a little bit like that, like contributing to the public conversation about incarceration,” said Alvarez.
“I can connect with part of your story and now I understand a lot more about how people, everyday people, end up in the prison system, said facilitator Caulton.