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Female inmates, others share stories at prison Tedx event

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Annie Ropeik/Delaware Public Media
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Ami Temple, an inmate at Baylor Women's Correctional Institution, tells her Tedx audience that inmates "are people too" who "don't deserve to be forgotten."

Inmates at Delaware's only women's prison joined thinkers from outside Friday to answer a simple question: What does a second chance mean behind bars?

 

The event at Baylor Women's Correctional Institution was hosted by TEDx Wilmington. Attendees included Second Lady Jill Biden.

The TEDx day follows another Baylor open house this past March, where inmates made and shared a meal with the public. The women of Baylor made lunch at the TEDx event, too, right down to the sandwich rolls.

 

State Department of Corrections Commissioner Robert Coupe says it's been a big change for his staff to run events like this in the prison -- and they're still working on convincing some inmates that prison culture is becoming more open in Delaware.

 

"To build a successful relationship we need trust and we need communication. So right now, we're working on the communication piece and we're trying to earn their trust," he says. "And some of them believe in it. I sense that when I talk to them. Some are still skeptical, but from where they came, I understand that."

 

Lakisha Short is one inmate who says his attitude toward enduring and even thriving in prison has changed completely since he went inside. (Short is transgender, and in July got permission from the state to change his name to Kai). He's 12 years into a 55-year sentence that he started in his 20s.

 

"I actually grew up in here, you know. My first time here, I was 17, so quite naturally I was resistant -- rebellious -- and I struggled in the beginning, and sometimes I still do struggle, even so far into my sentence," he says. "But the difference is now I know better and I'm able to do better, so with each setback, I can learn from that experience and move forward."

 

He is now part of the prison art program -- some of his works, drawings done in fine black and white lines, were on display Friday -- and is a teaching assistant in one of the adult education classes.

 

Short closed out Friday's TEDx event with a slam poetry piece. He drew a standing ovation when he told his fellow inmates that sometimes, "people with the worst past create the best future."

 

Stay tuned to Delaware Public Media for further coverage of the Baylor Tedx event next week.

 

Clarification: An earlier version of this article misgendered Lakisha Short, who is transgender and identifies as male. This story has been updated to reflect accurately reflect Short's gender identity.

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