Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Bates goes behind bars with Shakespeare

I have an unusual book to recommend.  For all my English/Literature professor/teacher friends, you must read "Shakespeare Saved My Life: Ten Years in Solitary with the Bard" by Laura Bates.  This first-person account follows Laura Bates, a professor at Indiana State University, as she goes to the depths of solitary confinement areas, known as Supermax, in a state prison to teach Shakespeare to the inmates.

Why in the world would these men, who have little or no formal education, be interested in Shakespeare? Bates sits in her chair at a designated distance from the men who can only see her through the slot in their cell doors where their food is delivered.

Photo from Indiana State University studies
She takes them through lively discussions and assigns homework. She challenges them to compare today's gang warfare to that of the feud and street battles seen between the Montagues and Capulets in "Romeo and Juliet."

"We are the only Shakespeare program in the segregated unit in solitary confinement anywhere in the world….Never before attempted….never duplicated either," says Bates in an Indiana State University publication.

Her star student, Larry Newton, is one of the most notorious prisoners in Supermax. I found her discussions with Larry to be fascinating.  She got a glimpse in to his mind and never-before insight into his psyche.

I highly encourage you to follow this super teacher into her adventure behind bars.

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