Sunday Nights, UW, and Bridges To HOPE     by    Ruth Utnage

I value education almost to the point of idolatry, almost, I stop just shy of dangerous territory. Education and educators changed my life. Opportunities are limited in prison to interact with a formal education system unless you have the family and money to pay the $700-1500 per class for correspondence courses. That’s why I love Sunday nights.

Every Sunday night two UW professors, Claudia and Brad, come in to this prison and work to bring opportunities into this place. On one Sunday per month they also bring with them two other UW professors, Sylvia and Maxine, educators who specialize in educating educators, simply put. That’s what they’re doing here, educating the prisons educators, people like me. Truthfully, it’s so much more than that.

Prison is a legal divorce from society, isolation from normalcy and humanity. (I could go into exhaustive historical lessons quoting Foucault and Davis, Gilmore and Bauer on how our government lead people to believe that removing humans from humanity will “fix” them, but, I will spare you…for now.) These folks from UW represent a restoration, of sorts. Part of that societal isolation from humanity and normalcy means you lose any potential for having a place therein, this represents a loss of purpose or hope thereof. These folks coming in believe we hold value, enough value that they take the time to interact with us, that’s why its special.

I get to flex my intellectual wings, which I’m sure annoys some of my peers…sorry, not sorry, and interact with new concepts in a way that feels good. I leave feeling good about myself and my return to society because I know there is hope, hope that I can find my place in it. I would like to say find it again, but I never really had one in the first place. Now I feel like I can, I wish I had the words to express how that makes me feel inside. Amazing what one Sunday a month can do.

I’ve taken plenty of prison courses, but none of them bring to the table higher academic learning and the ability, or willingness, to teach any of us how to conduct critical analysis. I do not get educational materials, no research papers, no educational books unless one of you kind readers takes the time to send me one (which, is an occurrence that I wish happened more) because our library is full of fiction and all but refuses to invest in educational materials.

I just wanted to express some gratitude to these people, Sylvia, Maxine, Claudia and Brad. I wish I had an award I could give that held societal meaning, I would give it. But there is one last concept I want to cover that’s really important to me personally.

As a transwoman in a male prison, my opportunities are often hard fought for. I have no mentors, I’ve begged, literally, for someone in the community to mentor me in various fields and I have been 100% ignored, 100% of the time. Being able to interact with strong, successful women that are happy and fulfilled is perhaps the most valuable thing I can hope for. While it’s not formal mentor ship, or mentor ship at all, it is an up close example I can inspect, take notes on. PH.D holding women, boldly coming into a men’s prison, fearlessly making a real and tangible difference in our world by literally walking in the midst of us. Yeah, I’ll take that as an example to emulate any day of the week.

What this world needs more of is them.

If you would like to mentor me or send books, please contact me at:

Jeff aka Ruth Utnage 823469 C-601-2
PO Box 888
Monroe, WA. 98272

I am wanting to pursue a career and Business education in Human Resource Management. But truthfully, I just love to read and need positive community support, some folks that are willing to come in and visit me and have a real conversation with me.

With Love
Ruth Utnage

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