Shoes are Important to Women in Dallas County Jail
Written by Victoria Loe Hicks
I know a place that makes any pair of shoes look better – way better. Every time I go there, whichever shoes I’m wearing suddenly become mega- stylish, no matter how long I’ve had them.
The place is Dallas County Jail, where every one of the roughly 900 women in residence has been issued a pair of blue or green plastic Crocs, along with a shapeless uniform in broad, horizontal green stripes. Now, worn by choice, Crocs are a nice, serviceable shoe for kicking back around the house, puttering in the garden or taking the dogs for a walk. But for the women in jail, they are just one more part of the systematic stripping away of autonomy, dignity and individuality that comes with being a guest of the taxpayer. By comparison, any pair of “real world” shoes, emitting the glow of personal choice, looks downright fabulous.
I go to jail as a volunteer for Resolana (www.resolana.info), a grass-roots nonprofit that helps incarcerated women reach past the badges of shame and the self-doubt to find the hope and resilience that can be the foundation for a better life. Some of our best tools are art and writing, dancing and storytelling. Given permission to express what’s inside, it doesn’t take the women long to see that the kind of freedom that counts most is bigger than steel doors.
When Cynthia told me about Sole Sisters, I knew it would resonate big-time with the women. So I took in big sheets of drawing paper and colored pencils and asked them to draw and write about three pairs of shoes:
- Their “yesterday shoes” – a favorite pair from childhood that reflected their girlhood dreams;
- Their “today shoes” – the jail-issued shoes that symbolize so many wrong turns and dead ends;
- Their “tomorrow shoes” – shoes they can imagine wearing as part of the life they want to create.
We had a great time: a few tears and a lot of laughs. And, as always, the results, which are excerpted here, were raw and real and surprising and beautiful.
If your shoes could use an extreme makeover, or if you just like to be with women who are working very hard to make their lives over, Resolana welcomes volunteers. To learn more about the program, visit www.resolana.info To inquire about volunteering, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
Below is one of the collages.