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Uncommon Community

One Congregation’s Work with Prisoners

John Speer

In 2003 members of the Henry David Thoreau Congregation of Fort Bend County, Texas, began a letter writing program with prison inmates. Soon afterward they launched a creative writing workshop and then a program that allowed prisoners to serve as tutors and writing mentors to college students. Speer describes how these programs started and evolved, sharing details about what worked, what didn’t and how the experience was transformational for all involved.

John Speer is the chair of the government department at Southwest College of Houston Community College and holds a doctorate from the University of Kentucky. A lifelong activist in organizations devoted to peace, sanctuary for refugees and community-building, Speer is one of the leaders of the Thoreau Congregation’s work with prisoners.

Praise for Uncommon Community

"Uncommon Community is the best kind of guide. In clear, direct language Speer describes prison programs developed and supported by his congregation in Texas. He shares stories of human sharing, personal testimonies and observations about our national prison crisis, while also giving useful advice to others wanting to do similar work. I look forward to sharing this excellent account with people across the country—inside and out—involved with prison issues and programs."
—Judith Tannenbaum, author, Disguised as a Poem: My Years Teaching Poetry at San Quentin

"These projects cut right to the core of our faith. Transformation is never easy, yet it is necessary to heal our bruised and hurting world. In giving a voice to the voiceless, the unimagined possibilities for hope in this world are made manifest."
—Bill Clark, minister, First Parish in Lexington

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This work is made possible by the generosity of individual donors and congregations. Please consider making a donation today.

Last updated on Wednesday, June 2, 2010.

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