In the News

‘If You’re Reading These Words, We’ve Succeeded’: Prison Poetry Program Help Inmates Break Stereotypes

By Frances Wang

Published by CBS, May 22, 2019

May marked one of our favorite months of the year. It was a wrap-up for our students as this spring semester came to a close. This year, from over 30 classes, more than 200 of our students graduated. The love, passion, and dedication they have put into their work show just how special and unique each of them are. Our students performed their pieces at our graduation showcases.

Click here to check out CBS Miami’s coverage of our graduation at Dade Correctional Institution, featuring our 2019 Prison Poet Laureate, Eduardo “Echo” Martinez.

Bringing Skills to the Incarcerated - Students Teach Legal Writing at Dade Correctional Institution

Published by Miami Law School, February 13, 2019

Without a right to an attorney on many post-conviction relief matters, individuals who are currently incarcerated are left to advocate for themselves without any legal training. In order to equip them with the tools they need to present their strongest case, Miami Law brought a law school level legal writing course to Dade Correctional Institution (DCI) this fall. 

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Exchange for Change

Published by Art Loft, February 1, 2019

We hear stories written by currently incarcerated students from the group's literary magazine, Don’t Shake the Spoon.

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'Literacy Is The Pathway To Freedom' And Other Thoughts From A Graduation Ceremony Behind Bars

Published by WLRN, December 26, 2018

The fall semester is over for students across South Florida—and at Exchange for Change, it's been a particularly meaningful semester. 

The program teaches writing and fosters literacy within South Florida prisons, and earlier this month, it hosted a formal graduation ceremony at Everglades Correctional Institution.

There were no caps or gowns, just the same blue uniform of every other day, but graduates were called up to a microphone to read their work to the audience of fellow inmates, guards and civilian teachers and visitors.

"It's important that we put a face on mass incarceration, and there's no better way to do that than one person at a time," said Exchange for Change founder Kathie Klarreich.

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Department of Juvenile Justice’s Weekly Letter

Published by DJJ, September 24, 2018

MYA has 13 youth currently participating in the first ever journalism class at the program. The class is being led by retired journalist and newest volunteer Henry Unger, by way of MYA’s community partner, Exchange for Change.

Henry Unger is the former assignment editor and columnist for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution’s (AJC) business section. He wrote the “5 Questions for the Boss” leadership column that appeared Sunday in the business section and on AJC’s websites. As an editor, he led the newspaper’s coverage of the G-8 Summit on Sea Island in 2004 and supervised teams of business reporters for many years.

The youth, through the Exchange for Change project, have opportunities for creative and intellectual engagement. The youth also participate in bi-weekly classes with Jan Sokol-Katz, Ph.D., senior lecturer and Director of Undergraduate Studies for the Department of Sociology at the University of Miami.

The program’s education partner, the Miami Dade Public Schools’ Office of Alternative Outreach Programs led by Lead Educator Daniel Wynne, provide full support to this revolutionary education and therapeutic intervention.


Life behind bars: Inmate stories to be featured at Main Library

Published by the Miami Herald, September 22, 2016

Raquel Martinez, wife of a Dade Correctional Institution inmate, describes her husband as a man of few words.

She says the years he has spent in prison have made her husband, Eduardo, who is serving a life term for second-degree murder, very reserved. But after he joined an inmate writing program at the South Miami-Dade prison, she said he has opened up.

“[He’s] kind of a like a book,” she said. “If you don’t open it to read it, you’re not going to know what’s so beautiful in those pages.”

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Letters to the Editor: Reversing a trend

published BY the Miami Herald, December 24, 2015

While the Herald was running its powerful investigative series on abuse inside Florida prisons, Exchange for Change, a nonprofit organization facilitating writing programs in South Florida prisons was hosting its fall graduations. Almost 150 men and women housed in four correctional institutions received certificates for completing writing and poetry workshops.

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Prison writing program builds communication — and confidence

published by the Miami Herald, November 16, 2015

Behind a door that said Re-Entry Betterment, 18 men in identical blue uniforms sat behind desks in a large circle. They attentively listened to George as he stood and read his poem:

“Just because I am in prison doesn’t mean I’m a bad person. Just because I was not raised by my parents doesn’t mean I was not raised properly.”

Heads nodded.

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Links Featuring Our Students

Related News

The case for capping all prison sentences at 20 years

Published by Vox, February 12, 2019

America puts more people in jail and prison than any other country in the world. Although the country has managed to slightly reduce its prison population in recent years, mass incarceration remains a fact of the US criminal justice system.

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Inmate's Second Chance Starts in San Antonio

published by the Houston Chronicle, January 31, 2016 

Former convict Robert Gill, initially sentenced to life for three minor drug offenses, is granted clemency after giving himself a legal education inside prison library and filing many initiatives of his own appeal.

“I am granting your application because you have demonstrated the potential to turn your life around.” –President Barack Obama, in signed letter of notification

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Justices Expand Parole Rights for Juveniles Sentenced to Life for Murder

published by The New York Times, January 25, 2016

SCOTUS ruled that its 2012 decision banning life-without-parole for juvenile killers must be applied retroactively, allowing new chance for release for hundreds of inmates serving life sentences for murders committed during their youth.

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US Prisoners Seize Opportunity to Receive Education Through Bard Prison Initiative

published by The Sydney Morning Herald, January 8, 2016 

Bard College runs free tertiary degree courses for incarcerated men and women at Fishkill Correctional Facility, NY. The Bard Prison Initiative made global headlines in 2015 when a team of inmates beat Harvard graduates in a debate contest.

“If education can penetrate prisons it can penetrate anything.” –Glenn Rodriguez, inmate and student

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Sentencing Overhaul Proposed in Senate With Bipartisan Backing

published by The New York Times, October 1, 2015 

A bipartisan group of senator unveiled legislation to overhaul the nation’s criminal justice system, allowing some nonviolent drug offenders to get reduced prison sentences.

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Obama Restores Some Prisoners' Pell Grant Eligibility 

published by Newsweek, July 31, 2015 

The Department of Education announced a pilot program that will reinstate eligibility for Pell Grants to some incarcerated people. The Second Chance Pell Pilot Program aims to help those convicted to “get jobs, support their families, and turn their lives around” through government provided aid for college education.

“America is a nation of second chances. Giving people who have made mistakes in their lives a chance to get back on track and become contributing members of society is fundamental to who we are.” –Sec. of Education Arne Duncan, Jul, 2015

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The Amazing Results When You Give a Prison Inmate a Liberal Arts Education 

Published by Smithsonian Magazine, November 2014

Prison reform activist champions the transformative power of a college degree for inmates nationwide. The article tells the story of individual inmates from vastly different upbringings participated in the Bard Prison Initiative.

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