Arts in Corrections

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Resource Details
Publication Date: 
December 2010
Grady Hillman
Number of Pages: 
Animating Democracy resource
PDF icon GHillman Trend Paper.pdf118.79 KB

Largely led by community artists and arts organizations with long-standing commitments to applied arts practice with diverse marginalized populations, arts in corrections assume varied forms and intentions. Arts programs provide expressive and reflective opportunities that enable the incarcerated to examine the trajectory of their lives. Arts and restorative justice programs are taking root in many states and communities, particularly with juvenile justice, providing offenders an opportunity to make restitution to those they have injured while learning the positive values and history of the places they reside, and then being accepted back into the community.  There are promising practices that employ arts programming with adjudicated youth, some based in a philosophy of Positive Youth Development, others in a continuum of care philosophy including an array of prevention, intervention and after-care programs.  Many juvenile justice programs operate in correctional education venues.  Hillman points to a growing trend within universities in which partnerships between community arts training and schools of social work, sociology, and criminal justice are preparing artists and others for arts in corrections work while directly offering programs in prisons. The paper provides historical background regarding organized arts programming in prisons and charts changes in the prison system that have resulted in diminished arts programs for adult males, sustained programs for women inmates, and expanded programs for juvenile offenders.  He also notes documented impact of arts in corrections programs in reducing recidivism, the incidence rate of misbehavior within correctional institutions, anti-social behaviors in youth, enhancing educational achievement, and producing many other positive economic, social, and personally transformative outcomes.

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