1991 — student award of excellence
When Tory Read was a kid, she stood up in kindergarten show-and-tell and announced, “I’m going to grow up and tell stories.” She produced her first book shortly thereafter, a simple tale about a blue bunny, told in crayon and construction paper.
For more than 25 years, Read has told stories—in writing, photography, video and sound—and she’s taught other people how to tell theirs. Along the way, she’s studied evaluation research methods, sociology, anthropology, community development, journalism, art, literature, culture and design. Read got her B.A. with honors in Humanities from Stanford University and her M.A. in Journalism from the University of Missouri-Columbia School of Journalism.
Between college and grad school, Tory Read spent three years working as a volunteer in Indonesia. Her job at the Ministry of Forestry was to chronicle and evaluate a community forestry pilot project in 13 villages across Java. Read’s first report was a standard-issue pile of text, and no one read it. Her second attempt featured photos and stories about the foresters and farmers working on the project and what they were learning.
When Jakarta bureaucrats waved her illustrated story report around at policy meetings as they hashed out next steps, she knew she was on to something. Storytelling for social impact was born.
Read has worked in Indonesia, New Guinea, the Pacific Islands, India, Brazil, and in cites and towns across the United States, chronicling and evaluating social impact projects and programs. She’s also developed story training for front-line community workers and staff at nonprofits.
When Read isn’t doing cutting-edge evaluation and story work for clients, she’s hiking, reading and making art.
I propose to document the problems and issues facing the wives and girlfriends of prison inmates, to examine how these women meet the challenges in their live, and to visually investigate community responses to the needs of prisoners’ families. The United States prison population continues to rise. Many of the men incarcerated in the system have girlfriends or wives and children who are profoundly affected by the breadwinner’s imprisonment. These women suffer spiritual, emotional, and economic violence. They are left to assume the role of the head of the household and primary wage earner, deal with their community’s perception of them as “prisoner’s wife,” and handle the frequently devastating impact of the man’s incarceration on the children. Research shows that maintenance of strong family ties during imprisonment results in a reduced likelihood of recidivism. Since women on the outside are largely responsible for the maintenance of those ties, it is in society’s best interests to examine the lives of prisoners’ families and incorporate these families into the overall rehabilitative process for the prisoner. In this way, the violence done to these women can be alleviated, and the convicts’ potential to do violence again can be reduced.
I have begun the project by focusing on the experience of one young woman in mid-Missouri. Ten images from my work with her are in my portfolio submission. Her husband is incarcerated in the Boonville Correctional Center, a medium security prison for first offenders located 30 miles west of Columbia. I will also explore the experience of a number of other women on the outside, as well as take look at ways that local communities and government agencies are responding to these women’s problems. When the project is completed, I will disseminate it via newspaper (to educate the general public). I will also present and exhibit the work at the National Family and Corrections Network Annual Conference to be held in Kansas. The Network is a non-profit organization that provides information and support to inmate family groups and social service organizations that deal with these families. I also intend to show the work to the Department of Corrections decision makers in an effort to get them to consider the prisoner’s family as a rehabilitation resource.