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Hawai'i's Women's Prison: The Role of the Kailua Prison Writing Project and the Prison Monologues as Expressive Pu'uhonua.

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Title:Hawai'i's Women's Prison: The Role of the Kailua Prison Writing Project and the Prison Monologues as Expressive Pu'uhonua.
Authors:Sims, Leanne T.
Contributors:American Studies (department)
Keywords:Women’s Prison Writing in Hawai‘i
Life Writing
Trauma Narratives
Poetry and Performance
show 1 moreRace and Gender in the Pacific Islands
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Date Issued:Aug 2017
Publisher:University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa
Abstract:Women’s plight in the prison industrial complex resounds within a broader, and
disturbingly American narrative: the disproportionate incarceration of non-whites in our
prison-industrial gulag. Prisons in Hawai‘i indicate an ongoing colonial relationship to
the United States of America, which overthrew the Hawaiian kingdom by force. While
historical and contemporary prison literature addresses the Black male as the most
marked body in the prison industrial complex, my intervention highlights the testimony of
women, including that of Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islander women who are
overrepresented in Hawai‘i’s carceral landscape. This dissertation, rooted in my
experiences between 2012 and 2016 as a researcher, a participant ethnographer and
guest, and a creative writing teacher at the sole women’s prison on O‘ahu—the
Women’s Correctional Community Center—addresses a scholarly lacuna in a tradition
that privileges male prison writing by examining women’s prison writing in two genderresponsive
programs: the Kailua Prison Writing Project and its adjacent Prison
Monologues. The philosophy of the writing program is rooted in Hawaiian practices of
ho‘oponopono (reconciliation and forgiveness) that resist state-sanctioned inscriptions
on Indigenous bodies. Imagined by its founders as a place of refuge and transgressive
cultural site, the Women’s Correctional Community Center is also a troubled site: a
feminized (domesticated) carceral landscape against a backdrop of colonialism—a
space between hope and despair. On the one hand, the Kailua Prison Writing Project is
a cathartic medium that effects change. The women who write in an incarcerated space
perform resistance, even as they confound the anticipations of readers familiar with an
incarcerated male authorship. Yet their resistance necessarily runs against institutional
constraint. If the creative writing classes function as a haven for the women, as the
women themselves attest, they are never immune to institutional intrusions and fracture.
My research holds in productive tension women’s testimony of the immeasurable value
of the Kailua Prison Writing Project and the ways in which the carceral and colonial
regimes continue to impinge upon the women’s lives. The story that unfolds is a
cartography—a bridge between social justice advocacy and scholarship that
interrogates social justice failures in the contemporary carceral archipelago.
Description:Ph.D. Thesis. University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa 2017.
Rights:All UHM dissertations and theses are protected by copyright. They may be viewed from this source for any purpose, but reproduction or distribution in any format is prohibited without written permission from the copyright owner.
Appears in Collections: Ph.D. - American Studies

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