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Teaching the Arts Behind Bars

NCJ Number
Rachel Marie-Crane Williams
Date Published
209 pages
In this anthology, arts-in-corrections teachers share their personal experiences, philosophies, and stories about their work with inmates, as well as practical advice.
The introduction by the book's editor notes that in a custodial environment where individual expression is not encouraged, the arts result in therapeutic benefits for inmates through individual, emotional expression that reveals and affirms their individual identity. Grady Hillman, a poet, shares his history and experiences as a leading figure in arts-in-corrections, including his observations on some of the nearly 100 American adult and juvenile institutions he has visited, as well as his experiences in Ireland, England, and Peru. James Thompson--a theater artist, professor, and founder of the Theater in Prisons and Probation Center in the United Kingdom--presents 10 principles of practice. Buzz Alexander, a professor of English language and literature at the University of Michigan, writes about his experience with the Prison Creative Arts Project in Michigan prisons. Leslie Neal, an associate professor of dance at Florida International University and the founder of ArtSpring, Inc., tells about her work in Florida women's prisons. Judith Tannenbaum writes about the complexity of teaching poetry in prison and coordinating a community outreach program. She includes uncomfortable personal discussions and situations with inmates and the outside world, along with the personal anxiety these interactions can stimulate. Jane Ellen Ibur's chapter tells about her working with men at the St. Louis County Adult Correctional Facility in the development of literacy skills through creative writing. Other contributors provide chapters with practical advice on such issues as survival skills for artists working in corrections, the use of artistic sensibilities to view one's environment and community with new perspectives, the design and implementation of a successful curriculum, teaching strategies, and guidelines for evaluating a corrections arts program.