Unique writing program decreases violence at the county jail

Posted at: 02/11/2013 9:26 AM
Updated at: 02/11/2013 12:27 PM
By: Heather Mills, KOB Eyewitness News 4

They say the pen is mightier than the sword - and at the Metropolitan Detention Center, that pen is also decreasing violence.

It's part of a new program called Just Write.

"So now, year after year and night after long agonizing night, the same question haunts my mind and holds me captive like a prisoner of war without any rights."

Carmel Gutierrez shared his poem in front of a class of his peers; inmates at MDC.

"It comes from a past that I never used to talk about," Gutierrez said. "A lot of people see us in here, they see us in orange. This is our way of expressing who we were before we got to this point. Who we still are."

Gutierrez is part of a program called Just Write.

"It's a program that encourages a lot of people to share a part of their past that's still being held in. That's still hurting, us."

Once a week, for two hours, about two dozen inmates write and share their innermost thoughts. 

"Instead of having that on our minds, waiting to snap and getting into fights, getting into an altercation with somebody, we come here and we can get it off our chest," Gutierrez said.  "We can turn it into something creative, something positive."

That's exactly what the creators of the program intended.

Carlos Contreras said, "It's an attempt to stop the revolving door. To try and stop the cycle."

Contreras and Diahndra Grill volunteer their time at MDC.

Grill said, "It gives them an outlet. It humanizes people."

And, according to jail chief Ramon Rustin, it's working. 

"The whole program, the honor program, the partnership with Gordon Bernell has decreased the violence and increased the activity," he said.

Rustin calls the work they're doing, "inspirational."

"It takes a lot of courage to come in here, and again, your sacrificing your personal time," Chief Rustin added. Something that's echoed by the inmates.

Gutierrez said, "You wouldn't believe how grateful we are for having these two start this."

If you'd like to learn more about Just Write, visit: http://nowrongjustwrite.org/