Video coverage by Melissa Zygowicz of KTHV. KTHV's video coverage can be seen here.
LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (KTHV) - A group of poets are looking to end mass incarceration in state prisons by giving a voice to the prisoners themselves.
The initiative is part of Arkansas Peace Week and was put on by the campaign Decarcerate Arkansas at the White Water Tavern Tuesday night. The event was called “Inside Out” and poets from across the state read poems prisoners sent in.
Arkansas has one of the fastest growing prison populations in the United States. The group sent out a flyer for prisoners to send in poems about what it is like to be in prison.
Decarcerate member and organizer Zachary Crow said this event allows for prisoners voices to be hear even from behind bars.
"We got a lot of different things. All connected in some way to personal experiences [in prison],” Crow said. “So, there are things about the importance of receiving letters and there's a poem dealing with the death penalty."
Crow said 100 prisoners sent in poems but only 20 were read out loud to a crowd of people.
Simone Lewis read one of the poems. She said doing this is important to her because she finds there is a misconception when it comes to people behind bars.
"Just because you go to jail doesn't mean you're not a person. They still have stories to tell. Some of them tell how it is and in [some] situations prison's not pretty,” Lewis said. “There's corruption in prisons that some prisoners have told us through their poetry."
This was the second time Decarcerate Arkansas hosted an event like this. Crow hopes it will reach a bigger audience in years to come.
For a full list of Arkansas Peace Week event, click here.