GREENWOOD, S.C. (AP) — Healing comes when you learn to let go and some women incarcerated at Leath Correctional Institution are letting go of past traumas in a different way.
Inside the confines of Leath, on display for all to see in the visitation room, is a butterfly mural that tells the stories of women who have experienced and survived trauma in their lives. The mural was started through a partnership with Just Detention International, an organization seeking to end sexual abuse in all forms of detention.
Through the partnership, the organization worked with Leath and Camille correctional institutions to install the murals and create #PrisonersToo, similar to the #MeToo movement, which allows the women to share their stories with each other and those beyond the prison walls.
“This is just a way for them to express themselves from the inside out — to express the trauma they’ve been through,” said Michele Carter, associate warden of programs.
Carter said the process was overwhelming for some and when they didn’t believe they could do it, she was one of their biggest cheerleaders.
“One inmate did her drawing and I told her I was proud of her. Nobody had ever told her they were proud of her. It’s all about bringing the positivity back into them and letting them know they’re worth it — it’s not looking at your shortcomings, but looking at what you’re doing to get better,” she said.
For Carman, Lisa and Tamika, three women who have each been through their fair share of trauma, reflected on the butterfly release — a day of celebration, relief, and healing.
With the help of artist Cathy Salser, each woman chose a panel and designed it to tell their own story of healing and letting go.
Tamika’s panel represents a time in her life when she was broken like a puzzle piece. She said expressing her emotions through art helped her become a stronger person. For Carman’s panel, similar to Tamika’s, her piece represents light and darkness and how no matter what hurt you may be going through you can become a better person.
“We’re just grateful that someone wants to hear our story,” Carman said.
Adding to that, Tamika said by sharing their stories, she hopes that they can motivate others to tell theirs.
“When it comes to releasing something, it’s a matter of choice. You take something from the inside out and get it out of you, learn how to control your emotions and not give anything or anyone control over you,” Carter said.
Between the number of supporters who were present for the release, the day was made extra special with a proclamation from the City of Greenwood. On behalf of Mayor Brandon Smith, City Councilman Johnathan Bass read a proclamation that designated Sept. 9 as #MeToo and #PrisonersToo Day in Greenwood to mark the releasing of traumas through art with the release of the butterflies.
“It’s nice hearing from our supporters. It lets us know we’re not alone,” Tamika said.