ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) — A nonprofit organization is helping inmates at jails across New Mexico express themselves through poetry, spoken word and journaling.

Rachel Martinez told the Albuquerque Journal that from a young age, her life has been a cycle of drug abuse and incarceration.

She is one of the inmates at the Metropolitan Detention Center participating in workshops by JustWrite.

"This helps me to heal myself," Martinez said.

Writing and creating is a survival strategy that allows people to recreate the world, said JustWrite co-founder Diahndra Grill. She started the nonprofit along with Carlos Contreras, and the two have been working with inmates across New Mexico since 2012.

"Being able to share your feelings and share what you've been through . reflect on where you've been and where you are and where you're going . is such a powerful process in a facility where there are absolutely no freedoms," Grill said. "It is opening up to a different kind of freedom of the mind."

The workshop is open to male and female inmates.

Grill starts the workshop by assigning the inmates a prompt that they can chose to follow or stray from.

Many writings focus on regret, fear, joy and a longing for their families and freedom.

Rachel Trujillo, 30, writes:

"Freedom is happiness. Freedom is sobriety in your mind body and soul. Talk is cheap, what my peers say. Freedom is action beyond doubt. Freedom is loving myself the third time around."

After they are done, some volunteer to read their works out loud. A few inmates snap their fingers like people do in poetry slams.

Writing allows Noe Tijerina, 60, to channel frustrations in a positive way.

Before a recent workshop, Tijerina said he had a discussion with the District Attorney's Office that did not go his way — so he sat down and wrote a poem.

"It got the ugliness out of me so — whew — I got a breath of fresh air," he said.

JustWrite also partners with other organizations to offer opportunities for inmates to publish and showcase their work outside prison.


Information from: Albuquerque Journal,