Skip to main content
Skip to main menu Skip to spotlight region Skip to secondary region Skip to UGA region Skip to Tertiary region Skip to Quaternary region Skip to unit footer


Writing for Social Justice, Common Good Atlanta, and Time Out of Joint

By Caroline Young

“We, the 3851S investigators, are tasked with reflecting on our individual and collective journeys through our summer service-learning class. Writing for Social Justice: The Prison Writing Project (ENGL 3851S) paired a diverse body of university students with incarcerated and formerly incarcerated communities to create humanities based, educational offerings designed for the broader public. Common Good Atlanta and Time Out of Joint worked alongside our class of University of Georgia students to build a community across the carceral divide.”

So begins the collaborative essay “Over the Walls,” written as a means for both UGA students and Time Out of Joint collaborators to reflect on our collaborative journey exploring education within and without America’s carceral system. The summer 2022 class merged two UGA writing communities:  ENGL 1102 and ENGL 3851S students into one class experience. Together, they had the good fortune of interacting with two more unique communities: currently incarcerated female college students at Whitworth Women’s Facility and formerly incarcerated teachers of Time Out of Joint, men who embraced higher education during their prison terms.

This purpose of this article is to celebrate the culmination of the long-term GMoA project and announce the initiation of this new partnership with Time Out of Joint. 

“Art is a form of freedom.” -- Whitworth Common Good Atlanta student

Shotgun House

Since 2020, UGA classes have been creating a Georgia Museum of Art kit to be used in Common Good Atlanta humanities classrooms.  Across multiple semesters, UGA students learned about the museum’s collection and selected over 140 works of art to share with the Common Good Atlanta students through art cards that included high-quality reproductions of each work of art, information about the artist, relevant historical context and questions to prompt reflections and interpretation.  

The kits are being used as both Art History and Critical Thinking and Writing resources at multiple CGA sites.  In response to the kits, one student from Burruss Correctional Center wrote a letter to the UGA students:

We are inspired by the beauty you all share with us, and each of us is going as far as we can to express our own innerHandwritten Letter truths. In a climate like this one, where violence and toxic masculinity are plentiful, a man expressing himself in a non-violent way is frowned upon. But we choose a different way. A more humane way. We have shared your art with the library and the education department. Your art has made the world a little brighter for us. 

Sincere thanks and well wishes,

Your friends at Burruss Correctional 


The 2021-2022 students at Whitworth Women’s Facility selected works from the kit and wrote prose and poetry in response to them. “Art is a form of freedom” is a forthcoming exhibit at the Georgia Museum of Art, showcasing the writing and art.  The exhibit runs from March 4 - July 2, 2023 in the Dorothy Alexander Roush Gallery at the GMoA.  To date, 40 UGA students and 31 Whitworth students have worked to make this exhibit a reality, and the exhibit will include concurrent programming focused on artmaking, freedom, and higher education in Georgia prisons.  There will be readings, panel discussions, and a film screening in April.

The summer WFSJ class visited Whitworth in July to help facilitate Whitworth’s first art crawl.  The museum art cards were on display for the entire population to view and respond to before the Whitworth class made its final decisions on the artwork.  It was positively received and future events are planned.  We are also planning to add the fine arts to the curriculum at Whitworth in 2023.

“Do no harm in education.” –Amiti Bey, Time Out of Joint FIT

As the museum project reaches culmination, a special partnership is developing in the Writing for Social Justice courses.  Thanks to a synchronous introduction from Sujata Iyengar, I met Steve Rowlands of Time Out of Joint, and together we planned a workshop series in which UGA students critically read and perform a series of prison monologues in development by formerly incarcerated men and current teachers for TOOJ.  It is an experiment in community writing, and the summer’s inaugural workshops resulted in one of the most meaningful experiences of my teaching career.

Time Out of Joint is a non-profit collective that provides grant-funded, free education workshops centering on Shakespeare and the myriad themes his work evokes.  The UGA students worked with the FITS (Formerly Incarcerated Teachers) in their generation of prison monologues to be used as future course material in TOOJ workshops.  Essentially, this gives advanced writing students the chance to workshop literature in development and to provide feedback to the original writers in person. 

Here is another excerpt from the student-written article, Over the Walls, explaining how this works.

“As humans, learning is a universal experience. But how one learns matters. A writing class is an excellent forum to allow individuals to practice active learning. Time Out of Joint is an active-learning program driven by community connection, conversation, and reflection, and each workshop’s success hinges on active involvement of all participants. The TOOJ program employs formerly incarcerated and educated individuals to lead workshops that discuss a multitude of important topics such as prison reform, the importance of education, and power imbalances in society. Through this program, incarcerated and non-incarcerated participants analyze Shakespeare and use the stories to reflect on their own situations. This community-based writing class allows all individuals to gain a critical academic skill, but also to develop a healthy emotional outlet, engage critical thinking skills, and emerge from the experience with a heightened literacy. Our experiences interacting with the TOOJ writing class reflected this truth and allowed us to experience first handedly benefits afforded to us and the formerly incarcerated community as peers. Programs such as TOOJ are vital towards initiating change through meaningful education.”

The students not only wrote a collaborative reflection for use by TOOJ, but they also delivered student-recorded readings of the monologues along with analyses for the writers.  As one ENGL 1102 student reflects,

“I thought I was emotionally prepared for a reading of Mohendra Singh’s monologue “The Irony of Life”: I was wrong. Emily West, another fellow UGA student, read the piece with such feeling and empathy that it struck a chord with all who were listening. It was so moving that it felt like being introduced to the reading for the very first time. The pauses and inflections in her voice adds a new dimension to the piece, like it had been missing from the writing. Having someone who relates to the writing, even just in some respects like the father-to-child relationship, reading it out loud makes a world of a difference in how it's perceived. As we heard about Emily’s relationship with her father, it is clear that everyone connected not only with Singh but with Emily as well. From these conversations, we can see the value of literature: bringing together a group of people with extremely different life experiences and having meaningful discussions about life and family.”

The student writing was impactful, and two student reflections are cited in a forthcoming article authored by Sheila Cavanagh and Steve Rowland. “’Branches of Learning’”: Collaborative Cognitive and Affective Learning Between Shakespearean Students trained in Schools, Universities, and Carceral Institutions” will be included in a Berghahn Books Shakespeare & series upcoming volume, Shakespeare and Social EngagementIn future class collaborations, Steve Rowlands, Amiti Bey, and I plan to coordinate the writing of a publishable collaborative article by the UGA and TOOJ communities during the semester of engagement.

I will wrap up the year with these words from TOOJ’s Steve Rowland, who reminds me why I teach in every conversation we have.  “We all are serving a higher purpose - encouraging young people to see and to embrace their own inner powers and brilliance.  Our diversity of experience & race makes a bold statement. By loving each other the way we do- it is flowing naturally- we create something larger than any one of us.  It really is an example of what I used to tell my college students is 'collective wisdom' when they were doing group projects. We are all equals. We all honor one another.”

Caroline Young is a Lecturer in the English department at UGA.













Support English at UGA

We greatly appreciate your generosity. Your gift enables us to offer our students and faculty opportunities for research, travel, and any number of educational events that augment the classroom experience. Support the efforts of the Department of English by visiting our giving section. 

Give Now