For many years, Patrick W. Berry never told anyone that his father had been incarcerated for much of his life, as had several other members of Berry’s extended family. In fact, he tried not to think much about it. But eventually, Berry, an associate professor of writing and rhetoric in the College of Arts and Sciences (A&S), used this very personal experience to further his work and share with others the importance of what literacy and writing can do for those impacted by incarceration.

Project Mend is helping current and formerly incarcerated individuals and their families use creativity to process their experiences and move beyond the impact of the criminal justice system.

Berry began his career in the magazine industry but eventually detoured into teaching—first at New York University’s publishing program and later at CUNY Brooklyn College—while working on his master’s degree. It was there that he began to see the real value of writing and the ways that expression through the written word can be connected with identity.

Building Community Through Writing

Berry started thinking about how teaching in a prison could be a valuable opportunity to see the power of writing and literacy in action. While pursuing his Ph.D. at the Center for Writing Studies and Department of English at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, Berry taught writing to incarcerated individuals through a prison education program nearby. (Read the full article... or read the new online journal Mend)