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SDSU Professor, Students Teach Inmates To Write About Themselves In New Film

A San Diego State University student works with an inmate at the Richard J. D...

Credit: Paul Sutton

Above: A San Diego State University student works with an inmate at the Richard J. Donovan Correctional Facility as part of a writing program run by former professor Paul Sutton in an undated photo.

SDSU Professor, Students Teach Inmates To Write About Themselves In New Film

GUESTS:

Paul Sutton, co-director, "Straight From the Pen"

Robert Gullett, former inmate, Richard J. Donovan Correctional Facility

Transcript

Former San Diego State University criminal justice professor Paul Sutton led his students on dozens of prison tours over his three-decade teaching career.

But in 2011, he brought his students into Richard J. Donovan Correctional Facility not only to observe, but to help teach the inmates to write about their lives. Sutton co-directed a film about the program, called "Straight From the Pen," which came out this year.

Robert Gullett was serving a life sentence plus 16 consecutive years in Donovan for attempted murder, kidnapping for the purpose of robbery, and first-degree robbery when he joined the class.

"I was really yearning to find out about me and my life, and how I came to be the person that I was. I was searching for what my problems were in my life," said Gullett, who was paroled in 2015. "I was writing about my good memories and bad memories, and I had no idea I was an abused kid. I just thought that’s how people were raised up in the ghetto."

A collection of essays from the prisoners is due out this fall, Sutton said.

Sutton and Gullett join KPBS Midday Edition on Thursday to discuss how the program helped inmates to open up about their vulnerabilities.

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