Dominoes Episode Seven

Charley wanted to reinforce making a difference process that he described with Lynn’s efforts to establish a mentoring program. To make the process come to life, Charley decided to give each of the interns a short narrative of a difference maker and then ask them to become that person. He wanted them to “invent” an addition to the story. This would bring to life a key aspect of the decision making strategy.

Peyton was the lead off in this exercise. He gave her the story of Elaine Roulet and asked her to create what she might imagine could have been a part of the STORY FRAMING stage in Elaine’s difference making. Then he gave Peyton a brief background on Elaine.

Elaine Roulet was called to a life of religious service and became a Roman Catholic nun.  She dedicated her life to prison reform for women.  Her basic belief was that children of women in prison shouldn’t be adversely impacted by their mothers’ wrong doings.

She advocated for children born while their mothers were in prison, that they should be able to remain with their mothers for the first 12-18 months of their lives.  The babies would be able to bond with their mothers, and the mothers would be given hope for a better life after being released from prison.  Sister Roulet also advocated for family rooms where children and mothers could be together when the children returned     for visits.  The program that Sister Roulet established became a model for prisons across the country.

Peyton imagined what stories would move prison officials and policy makers. She chose to write stories representing different situations. She wanted the stories to be inspirational. She also wanted them to be realistic.

Story 1:     Esther was 18 when she discovered she was pregnant. She came from a very religious family who basically disowned her. Esther lived in a state where abortion was illegal, so she found herself living on the streets. She became involved with a girl gang which engaged in armed robberies. Esther was arrested and sent to jail due to a very uncaring public defender. While in jail, the thought of her yet-to-be-born child was what sustained her. Esther became a model prisoner and looked forward to the day when her child would be born and placed in her arms. Just imagine the impact on Esther should her child be taken from her at birth.

Story 2:     Hannah was arrested with her husband on a fraud scheme. She had minimal involvement but was sent to jail. Her two children, ages 3 and 5, were sent to live with Hannah’s mother. When the children visited Hannah, they were required to meet her in a commons area where they saw some very unsavory women. Eventually the visits stopped and Hannah lost contact with her children.

When Charley asked the interns to comment on the effectiveness of the stories, some comments made were:

“I put myself in the situations you described and I could clearly see the need for a more humane approach for dealing with mother/children relationships when the mother is in jail.”

“I was really moved by the stories. It was hard to believe the societal benefit by how mothers were being treated.”

“I was angered by these stories. I wish I had been in a position to change the laws to allow children and mothers to maintain a caring relationship while the mother was in jail.”

Charley used the responses to provide guidelines for framing the stories. “You have identified three essential emotions to be generated from the framing. They are: relatable, moving, and anger. What you want to do is build an emotional acceptance for the need for change. This was a great first step.”

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“Storytelling is the most powerful way to put ideas into the world today.” – Robert McKee (story consultant)

How To Use

Useful guides for incorporating messages into discussion.