Betty May: Exploring the Struggles of Women Behind Bars

When I was a child, I had the incredible good fortune to meet a woman who would shape the person I became, whose energy and belief in others helped me bettyevolve from a shy little girl who cried in the bathroom to a singing and dancing young woman who went after her dreams. That was Betty May, director of Onstage Productions, the theater group I was involved with for over ten years.

To anyone who knew her, it was no surprise that Betty continued to use her theatrical gifts to reach out to others after our theater closed. She’s been a high school teacher, a circus coach, and a clown. She went to Central America and founded a children’s theater company in a Guatemalan squatters’ settlement. And then, in 2008, she responded to an invitation to work with female prisoners serving life sentences to create a play about their experiences.

untitledNow, she has written a book about these women’s experiences: Faces: Imprisoned Women and Their Struggle with the Criminal Justice System (CreateSpace, 2014). The book also follows Betty’s own journey through the criminal justice system as she directed their original play warning young people about the consequences of bad choices. That work led to the Kennedy Center tapping Betty to write and direct a production featuring plays by prison inmates performed by professional actors.

Faces is an inspiring, eye-opening, and at times difficult and upsetting, read. Betty May invites us to examine our criminal justice system and the ways it often penalizes those it was designed to protect. She takes the reader along with her as she enters the prison gates and meets the real people behind the headlines.

Read the first chapter of Faces: Imprisoned Women and Their Struggle with the Criminal Justice System here.

Betty is a dynamic, passionate speaker and is available for speaking engagements at schools, libraries, and other community groups. Find out more at



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