Monday, November 14, 2016

Sleep Sweetly Sleep Softly

Our concerned citizen project followed Grant’s niece, Kelsey Hamstead, and her efforts to help inmates maintain relationships with their children. Kelsey is involved with a program that allows mothers in Utah State Prison to record themselves reading bedtime stories for their children. These recordings are then sent to their children for them to listen to. We documented her story as an audio recording featuring audio from Kelsey herself, inserts from actual recordings of some of the inmates Kelsey works with reading to their children, and soundbites found on the internet. Our documentary, “Sleep Sweetly, Sleep Softly,” shows an individual trying to preserve valuable family relationships.
Having a parent in prison can have a tremendous impact on a child. The most immediate effect is that the child is separated from his or her parent for an extended period of time. Kelsey’s involvement helps to shorten that gap by still allowing the parent to participate in an elemental parent-child ritual such as reading bedtime stories. Nurturing the relationship these mothers have with their children reduces the chance that their children will also find themselves in jail in adulthood. Kelsey’s contribution literally keeps families together and keep children out of prison.
One item that caught our attention how Kelsey described her interactions with the inmates as very affable and warm. We thought it was interesting that someone would feel at home inside a prison center. We thought breaking stereotypes in this way, like how the beehive stories video specified the sheepherder was educated in college, was instrumental in giving life to our audio piece. Conveying this specific concept was a central goal in putting together our audio piece. One way we went about that was embedding clips from the recordings of the mothers reading to their children throughout the audio piece. Bookending the documentary with bedtime stories carried the pathos we were after and mimicked the pattern of a bedtime story, such as the book read in the audio piece, “I’ll Love You Forever.” 
                We would hope that people who listen to “Sleep Sweetly, Sleep Softly,” and consider how warmth and familiarity can be found even in a setting such as a prison. With that, we’d hope listeners would be more understanding toward these individuals and the needs they have. In our initial interview with Kelsey, she admitted that it wasn’t always easy to reserve the time to participate in this program, but helping these individuals stay connected with their loved ones was, and continues to be for her, a labor worth pursuing.

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