So Am I: What Teaching in a Prison Taught Me is a fascinating portrait of men in a GED class in a maximum-security prison working diligently to better themselves under sometimes heartbreakingly difficult circumstances. It also portrays Merle Helen Morrow’s struggle to view her students as multi-faceted individuals, rather than simply as convicts—a struggle made more difficult when, after one and a half years of teaching, she discovered the nature of her student’s crimes and had to reconcile that knowledge with her feelings toward the men she had come to know and respect as friends.
Morrow’s perception of prisoners first began to change on September 11, 2001, when she saw the sorrow and patriotism of prisoners in a maximum-security prison she was visiting in connection with her job at the Department of Justice. As a result, Morrow retired from the Department of Justice, and spring of 2002 found her teaching a GED class at the Maryland House of Correction, a men’s maximum-security prison.
Initially intimidated by the prisoners, Morrow soon developed a rapport with the students in her class and found herself admiring their effort and their fortitude in the face of tremendous, albeit self-inflicted, difficulty. Her relationship with her students inspired in her the desire to share their stories with the outside world. Morrow made a promise to one of her students that she would let the general population know that the men in prison were “not all monsters,” but rather that many of them, like the men in her class, were individual human beings who had committed crimes but were trying to rehabilitate themselves, with little to no help either from the outside or from within the system that confined them.
Author Merle Helen Morrow practiced law for thirty years, and upon retirement taught a GED class in a men’s maximum security prison for over three years. Morrow has since volunteered in various capacities aiding prisoners, including teaching in a men’s pre-release unit for one year and ongoing volunteer activities with the Maryland Restorative Justice Initiative, which awarded her the 2008 Volunteer of the Year Award. Morrow and her husband reside in Maryland. She will donate her royalties to prisoner rehabilitation programs.
For more information, visit www.teachinginprison.com
So Am I: What Teaching in a Prison Taught Me
Merle Helen Morrow
ISBN: 978-145750-244-6 206 pages $14.95 US
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