USA: new creative writing course challenges inmates at State Penitentiary

Thinking caps are on inside the classroom at the South Dakota State Penitentiary as inmates are getting a unique opportunity to tap into their thoughts and put their pens to paper.

It’s a new program as part of student research teaching creative writing to inmates nearing the end of their sentence. So far, it’s making a profound difference.

Emelia O’Toole is the instructor who is also a student assistant researcher at the University of Sioux Falls.

“I want to be a teacher. I’m going onto graduate school so this is the best first teaching gig ever. They are great,” Emilia O’Toole said.

The students of hers are doing a lot of reading and writing in a short amount of time.

“Everything I’ve given them, they’ve read and thought about. It’s inspired them to write their own stuff. It’s everything you’d want a creative writing class to be,” O’Toole said.

The inmates feel the same way.

“We’re coming together as a class, we’re helping each other,” Rocky Clark said.

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