The room is empty, devoid of students. Chow in 100 comes early and always during literacy class. Through the door I watch two female deputies work the tower, a raised area in the center quad of three large dorms that house thirty women each, and my classroom. Food carts squeak. Trustees push plastic trays through portals in locked massive, metal doors. Women wave and mouth verboten greetings through heavy windows laced with wire mesh. Phones ring. Walkie-talkies squawk. Voices loud – laughing, scolding, praising, joking.
Fifteen minutes – “Teacher’s waiting. Hurry-up.”
A wave of women shuffle in, then another, back to their pencils and pages. Greetings and gossip, all ages, races, average, normal – dressed in orange, INMATE stamped on their backs. Each has a story, choices and circumstance – tragic or luck. Lives pulled from poverty and privilege, sit side-by-side in search of change. I listen and pray, glad I’m the volunteer and not the judge.