MARYSVILLE, Ohio (WCMH) – Inmates and prison staff had round table discussions over lunch during what many said was a first-of-its-kind event at the Ohio Reformatory for Women (ORW).
Much of the conversation was about what community is inside and outside of prison.
“The best part was just hearing the potential that we have to be as women together feeling like we are as a community in here,” said Gabrielle Legge. “Feeling like we’re heard for more than just our numbers and we’re heard for who we are as a person.
She was at a table with other inmates and prison employees. At some tables, correctional officers sat side by side with inmates.
“Just kind of interesting to hear both sides of each story,” said Sgt. Ralph King. He’s a correctional counselor and has worked at the prison for twenty years. He said prior to this he had never had an experience at the ORW like the on on Wednesday.
“Just learning their side of views and coming together as a community,” he said.
The conversations were part of The Big Table. The Harmony Project organized the discussions at the prison.
“We were able to have a discussion that was human to human, not staff to inmate,” said Dr. Jennifer Kennedy, a psychologist at the ORW. “I feel like their ideas can really make the prison grow in healthier ways and have more connections outside of these walls.”
Both staff and inmates say they now have a better understanding of what the other is going through. Walking away from the conversation they also now have ideas on how to improve life in and out of prison.
“Just to have an experience like this makes us feel like we’re not forgotten in here,” said Legge.
The Harmony Project plans to have a similar event at the prison next year.