What I Want My Words To Do To You, offers an extraordinary look into the minds and hearts of the women inmates of New York’s Bedford Hills Correctional Facility. The film goes inside a writing workshop led by playwright and activist Eve Ensler, involving 15 women, most of whom were convicted of murder. Through a series of exercises and discussions, the women examine their pasts and explore the nature of their crimes and the extent of their own liability. The film finishes in an emotionally stimulating prison performance of the women’s writing by acclaimed actors Mary Alice, Glenn Close, Hazelle Goodman, Rosie Perez and Marisa Tomei.
Participants in What I Want My Words To Do To You include:
•Pamela Smart, who agonizes over the affair she had with a high school student who eventually murdered her husband.
• Judith Clark and Kathy Boudin, imprisoned since 1981 for their participation in the robbery of an armored car in Nyack, New York that resulted in the deaths of three men.
•Betty Harris admits to killing her mother after enduring years of abuse.
•Keila Pulinario, convicted of murdering a man she had accused of raping her.
•Donna Hylton, a former track star convicted of murder
•Monica Szlekovics, mid-20’s, who tries, through her writing, to convey to her mother that, with a sentence of 50-to-life, there’s a strong chance she will never leave prison.
•Roslyn Smith, late 30’s, convicted of murder at 17, who writes about the surprising outburst by a man who visited her in the honor housing unit to learn about Bedford’s guide-dog training program.
•Cynthia Berry, ex-drug addict and former prostitute who murdered 71-year-old “john.”
Watching the film I feel repentance for the woman and their stories but at the same time it makes me reflect on the victims and their families. It makes me ask the question, does the end justify the means? Because these stories are so close to home, we tend to overlook the victims and side with the women and say he raped her he deserved it. Is it wrong to feel sorry for these women? No it’s in our human nature to feel compassion for someone. We all know someone who was raped, or in any of these woman’s situations and if it were my daughter, sister or mother I would want to murder that person myself, but in actuality no one deserves their life taken away, for any reason. Which makes me ask another question. What is the difference between them and I? What will make me stop and think not to do it and yet have the next person do it without a thought? Is it something that they’re born with or is it the environment they were brought up in?
For example my sister and I were molested by the same man she grew up not able to recover from it and I did. She uses drugs because for that moment it helps her forget and as for me I steer far away from drugs. Why, if our upbringing (environment) is the same, our choices are different? What forces us to react in different ways? This is a question that is beyond me but I give praise to these ladies to have the courage to explore in depth the sad and unfortunate events that brought them to where they are today. Even though most will endure more years in confinement than they had in freedom, participating in this program gives them hope and an opportunity to have some of life’s most valued experiences.
Life experiences such as develop the discipline to focus on themselves and their past, develop a skill (writing/acting), and gain recognition and approval for work well done. Respect gained for their reflection and hard work, I’m sure has enabled them to feel a renewed sense of self-worth; self-worth that allows them at least an ounce of joy, something they may not have felt for a very long time. We usually see the victims’ side and don’t care to see the other side but thanks to this film it gives us the opportunity and opens our eyes to see that we all have stories wrong or right it’s our story and we have a right to tell it without judgments because we all are human and therefore make mistakes. Don’t judge someone if you haven’t walked a mile in their shoes.