The tangled web of law, lore, and life in contemporary society with how storytelling can change lives. literally.

By: Alex Bancila, Mikala Nellum, Shelby Babineau, Benji Jacobson

Our final media project for a Tulane undergraduate service-learning class, Media for Community Health and Well-Being, was completed for the Women’s Prison Project. The Women’s Prison Project, managed by the Tulane Law program, focuses on justice for incarcerated women convicted of killing their abusers. Our media project aims to teach these women to tell their stories to juries and judges effectively. Most of these women have minimal storytelling experience, a vital skill in determining whether they receive a trial. I think it’s important for the board to understand each unique situation fully.

A moment of reflection behind bars

Lacking funds for proper legal representation, these women, once convicted, must resort to self-education in law using outdated textbooks and speaking for themselves in court. They form “inmate councils,” serving as makeshift attorneys, drawing on limited legal knowledge and mutual support. Notably, the men’s prison in Louisiana (Angola) boasts one of the world’s finest inmate councils, leading to many prisoners’ release due to the inmates’ commendable efforts. These women, often enduring years of abuse and toxic environments, sometimes defend themselves when they can no longer bear the abuse. Our target audience, these women could benefit from our video in learning to represent themselves effectively.

The Elements of Storytelling: From History to Emotion

Many of these women seek sentence reductions or expungements. Our project is divided into several segments for effectively teaching impactful storytelling. The first part outlines the essentials of storytelling, including dos and don’ts. The second part contrasts poor and effective storytelling, providing clear examples. Our group members demonstrated in the project the importance of including every detail, displaying emotional strength, and eliciting jury and judge sympathy. The distinction between effective and ineffective storytelling is evident in the project. Throughout the semester, we learned and incorporated various techniques in our project, enhancing these incarcerated women’s understanding of storytelling’s significance, potentially impacting their sentences and post-release lives.

Framing the Play of Life

Recognizing our target audience of incarcerated women, we focused on female narrators in our video. Having females illustrate storytelling tips and contrasting story examples ensures better resonance with the women than male narrators would. This media project will significantly assist these women, many of whom were wrongly convicted for self-defense. We hope our video aids them in future hearings, enabling them to convey their stories comprehensively from their perspective.

For more information about the Women’s Prison Project, please go to:



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