Tag Archives: criminal justice blog

Seeking input on building a national prison arts association

5 Jan

Dear friends of The Prison Arts Coalition:

Building upon a new level of cultural awareness regarding the benefits of arts in corrections programs, we would like to know if an expanded national organization would be a valuable asset to you and the work you do.

In these early stages, we feel the association could offer the following to its members:

  • Raise awareness of programmatic efficacy
  • Host national or regional conferences
  • Share best practices
  • Foster community
  • Support, collect and disseminate relevant research
  • Offer professional development opportunities
  • What else can you imagine?

The following 5-minute survey is designed to help better understand the need for a national prison arts association and how it can best serve potential members like you.  Your input is incredibly valuable during this early stage.

National Prison Arts Survey

We are hoping to collect all responses by January 29th.

Thank you for your time!

This survey has been developed with input by an ad hoc steering committee of prison arts advocates and practitioners, including:

Cynthia Gutierrez – Barrios Unidos Prison Project

Ella Turenne – Artist, Activist, EducatorOccidental College

Freddy Gutierrez – Community Worker, Performing Artist

Illya Kowalchuk – Pop Culture Classroom

Jonathan Blanco – Oregon State Penitentiary Hobby Shop

Laurie Brooks – William James Association

Lesley Currier – Marin Shakespeare Company

Nate Henry-Silva – Imagine Bus Project

Nathalie Costa Thill – Adirondack Center for Writing

Treacy Ziegler – An Open Window

Victoria Sammartino – Voices UnBroken

Wendy Jason – Prison Arts Coalition

Alma Robinson – California Lawyers for the Arts

Weston Dombroski – California Lawyers for the Arts


By Heart: Poetry, Prison, and Two Lives

28 Sep

By Heart Cover Image

By Heart: Poetry, Prison, and Two Lives — a two-person memoir written by Judith Tannenbaum and Spoon Jackson — will be out in April 2010. You can read more about the book here (and sign up to be notified when the book is available).

PCAP Announces a full Schedule of Events for the 14th Annual Exhibition of Art by Michigan Prisoners

4 Mar
"Halloween: Fall Fun-Time" by Gary English

"Halloween: Fall Fun-Time" by Gary English

For 14th Annual Exhibition press release see this post.

Tuesday, March 24
Opening Reception

Join the Prison Creative Arts Project (PCAP) as we celebrate the opening of the 14th Annual Exhibition of Art by Michigan Prisoners. Formerly incarcerated artists, and Curators Buzz Alexander, Janie Paul, and Jason Wright, will address visitors to the gallery at 6:15 p.m. Free and open to the public.
5:30 – 8:00 p.m., Duderstadt Center Gallery, 2281 Bonisteel Blvd., Ann Arbor, MI

Wednesday, March 25
Bill Ayers

Join us as Bill Ayers, Distinguished Professor of Education at the University of Illinois and Chicago Citizen of the Year, talks about the role of the arts, education, and activism in shaping our collective destinies. Bill Ayers is the author of several books on education and social justice and is the founder of Chicago’s Small Schools Workshop and the Center for Youth and Society.
7:30 p.m., Rackham Amphitheatre, 915 E. Washington St. Ann Arbor, MI

Thursday, March 26
The Michigan Review of Prisoner Creative Writing: Book Release and Celebration

PCAP and the 14th Annual Exhibition of Prisoner Art present an evening in celebration of PCAP’s first ever Michigan Review of Prisoner Creative Writing. Join us with guest editor and prisoner writing advocate and teacher Joseph Bathanti to enjoy selections of the beautiful and unabashed poetry, prose, and fiction of Michigan’s incarcerated writers. We come together on March 26th to celebrate and honor the talent and vison of these hidden voices with readings by recently released writers whose work has been featured.
7:00pm, Anderson Room, Michigan Union, 530 S. State St. Ann Arbor, MI

Friday, March 27
The Art of Social Change

Malaquias Montoya, a Professor at the University of California, Davis and renown Chicano artist, will present his latest exhibit, “Premeditated: Meditations on Capital Punishment.” This exhibit was inspired by Malaquias’s longstanding commitment to speaking out on behalf of those who are disadvantaged and oftentimes silenced by society. His art reveals the underlying racial and class injustices that are carried out through state sponsored execution, and his images are purposefully graphic so as to awaken audiences from their anesthetized response to capital punishment. In all of his work Malaquias sees it has his responsibility to comment on the culture of his time and create social change through art.
7:30 p.m., Henderson Room, Michigan League, 911 N. University Ave. Ann Arbor, MI

Saturday, March 28
Youth Speak

Please join us as a group of Detroit youth come together to discuss serious issues of urban living. It will be a facilitated dialogue with these bright young leaders about the challenges they face, and then an open discussion with all in attendance about these same challenges.
2:00 p.m., Room D, Michigan League, 911. N. University Ave. Ann Arbor, MI

Sunday, March 29
Artists Talkback

Join us as a panel of formerly incarcerated artists discuss works in this year’s show and the process of creating art behind bars. The event is moderated by U of M’s School of Art and Design Professor, Janie Paul.
3-5 PM Duderstadt Center Gallery, 2281 Bonisteel Blvd., Ann Arbor MI

Wednesday, April 1
Tough Choices: A Look at the Complexities of the Michigan Parole and Commutation Board

Join us for a conversation about the process by which the Michigan Parole and Commutation Board reach decisions determining whether a prisoner is ready to return to society.
4:00 p.m., Anderson Room A/B, Michigan Union, 530 S. State St. Ann Arbor, MI

Monday, April 6
Invisible Women: The Crisis of Incarcerated Mothers

Silja Talvi, investigative journalist, and author of Women Behind Bars: The Crisis of Women in the US Prison System, and Melissa Radcliff, Executive Director of Our Children’s Place, a residential initiative allowing young children to live with their incarcerated mothers, join us to discuss the intersections of incarceration and motherhood.
7:30pm, Rackham Assembly Hall, 915 E. Washington St., Ann Arbor, MI

Wednesday, April 8, 2009
Closing Reception

5:30 – 8:00 p.m., Duderstadt Center Gallery, 2281 Bonisteel Blvd., Ann Arbor

Exhibition Dates
March 24 – April 8, 2009

Gallery Hours
Tuesday-Saturday 10am-7pm
Sunday-Monday 12pm-6pm

For further information
call 734-647-7673 or email prisonart@umich.edu

*Watch a preview of Acts of Art: The Prison Creative Arts Project at:


Judy Dworin Performance Project’s Moving Matters! Residency Program at York Correctional Institution in Niantic, CT

21 Feb

The Judy Dworin Performance Project is moving into its 4th year of residency work at York Correctional Institution for women in Niantic, CT. There has been tremendous growth in the women we have worked with at York in self-confidence and self esteem; in their ability to work as a group; in their ability to express themselves and communicate with others; and in adding a creative dimension to their lives that is healing and growth producing. Through this work we have begun to outreach to some of the families of the incarcerated and we have seen what an important bridge the arts can provide between family members inside and outside the razor wire. Children have reconnected with their mothers, parents have seen their incarcerated children’s growth, and family members have expressed pride in their incarcerated relatives accomplishments.

Our 2008 residency focused on the women’s dreams and dream aspirations, and began with a special performance of JDPP’s most recent premiere, The Witching Hour, a performance piece that looks at 17th century Connecticut women who were accused and prosecuted as witches. The piece was extremely well-received by the women and gave the 34 women who became part of the Dreamings project a way to see how costumes, visual elements, text and music can be combined in a performance piece that speaks to history, gender and issues of social justice.

The six-month residency culminated in a performance piece that integrated text, poetry, dance and, for the first time, scenic elements. Dreamings became a piece that spoke to not only the incarcerated but to all people, about their dreams, dream aspirations and common humanity. The results demonstrated a sophistication that went far beyond previous years. The progress this year was a testament to the value of continuing year-to-year residencies. And the women’s participation in other arts residencies at the prison also builds a foundational knowledge that they can apply to other arts projects.

A crowning achievement is that we received permission to purchase t-shirts of different rainbow colors depicting each group, (the dancers, singers, and performers) with a common design created by one of the women printed on the front of each one. The women wore these as “costumes” for each performance and we were able to then mail the t-shirts to designated family members after the performance. The opportunity to wear these t-shirt was transformative for the women– as one inmate said, “Putting on the shirts we were like free for a while. It is something I will never forget,” And one more notable step was that a families performance was allowed to take place on the last performance day in the evening, in the gym. An audience of about 70 people attended the families performance. One inmate, a youthful offender, described, “My mom has never seen me do anything like this,” and she continued to say of the project, “It motivated me. I haven’t been in seg in one month or gotten a ticket. I couldn’t go a week before.”

The York performances were seen by over 200 inmates at York who received the performance with standing ovations, cheers and energized talkbacks. As one inmate exclaimed in the talkback after the performance, “This is what it really means to be free on the inside. You guys are awesome and right now I feel free on the inside.”

We will be taking the Dreamings project out to the public on April 2, 3, 4, 2009 at Charter Oak Cultural Center in Hartford, CT. Joining the Judy Dworin Performance Ensemble and Women of the Cross in this further development of the piece will be formerly incarcerated women and daughters of incarcerated women at York.

Our fourth Moving Matters! residency for women at York CI entitled “What I Want to Say” will begin this coming spring. In this project we plan to continue to build on the artistic and deep personal growth of the York women and further a positive dialogue with the participating women and family members. We plan to create a piece using text, movement, song and visual images to portray stories, thoughts and reflections of the women to an especially important person in their lives. The question that we are presenting to them is, “If you had only one story to tell that person, what would you want to say?”

Concurrently, we will be working with 20 York mothers and their Hartford-based children in a project in collaboration with Families in Crisis and Central Connecticut State University on the same theme. If possible, we hope to have some collaborative sharing between the two groups. We will work with the York mothers and their children, on a way to express a message to their mother or child through dance, song, poetry or the other art forms. Through a series of exercises and explorations in movement, writing, song and drawing, we will help to shape these communications in the classes for a culminating day of sharing at the prison. On the final day, in the morning the children and the mothers will share their pieces with each other. We will then work the separate pieces into a collaborative performance piece that will be shared as a culminating performance for an invited audience of inmates, staff and outside guests.

JDPP inc. throughout its almost twenty years, has created residency programs that time and again demonstrate how the arts can be a powerful agent of change, growth and healing. Our work at York has been one of the most striking examples of the transformative possibilities of the arts.

Contact Information:
Judy Dworin Performance Project
233Pearl St
Hartford, CT 06103
Phone 860-527-9800
Fax 860-527-9813

CASES Insight Project Begins a New Cycle

18 Feb


The Insight Project is a comprehensive theatre-making class offered by the Court Employment Project (CEP), an alternative-to-incarceration program addressing the needs of court-involved youth at CASES. Following the success of the company’s first and second cycle productions of the original plays Bird’s Eye View and Brazil at Theatre Row Studios on 42nd Street, the Insight Project will focus its next cycle on bringing these productions into the community.

Bird’s Eye View raises challenging questions about becoming an adult while negotiating family loyalty, ethical and legal behavior. Brazil explores the impact of a single act of violence and the struggles of those affected to make sense of the incident. Both scripts are original pieces, written in the course of the Insight Project’s work by the participants and Writer-in-Residence Todd Pate, and inspired by the participants’ life experiences.

The Insight Project’s third cycle will bring project alumni together with professional actors and new CEP participants to revive these two powerful performances as a repertory company. Our goal is to use these performances to engage communities in a conversation on the underlying issues of offending behavior and a dialogue on the value of community-based alternatives to incarceration. Accordingly, performances will be accompanied by a curriculum guide for interested high school and undergraduate institutions, and will be followed in all cases by a talkback, in which audiences will engage directly with performers about the play’s content and their individual perspectives on these issues.

Institutions interested in hosting a performance of Bird’s Eye View or Brazil in May or June of 2009 should contact Insight Project Director Dan Stageman. There is no charge for the performance – an appropriate venue (with minimal production values) and an engaged audience are the only requirements. Performance scripts and curriculum guides are available upon request.



The mission of CASES is to increase the use and understanding of community sanctions that are fair, affordable, and consistent with public safety.


Contact Information:
Daniel Stageman
Director, Insight Project.
Telephone: (347) 885 8222
Fax: (212) 571 0292


18 Feb

"Halloween: Fall Fun-Time" by Gary English

"Halloween: Fall Fun-Time" by Gary English

ANN ARBOR, MI – The Prison Creative Arts Project (PCAP) presents the Fourteenth Annual Exhibition of Art by Michigan Prisoners. The artwork featured in PCAP’s Annual Exhibition over the years has addressed a wide variety of social issues, this year focusing on climate change. Incarcerated people being cut off from the natural landscape have witnessed the widespread poisoning and consumption of the Earth’s natural resources in poignant and innovative ways. The artwork in this year’s show gives voice to these observations.

From March 24 – April 8, 2009, the show will be held at the Duderstadt Center Gallery on the University of Michigan North Campus at 2281 Bonisteel Boulevard. Over the past decade, this nationally recognized show has grown to be the largest exhibition of prisoner art in the country. This year’s exhibition will include more than 300 works of art by over 200 artists, shedding light on the talents to be found behind prison walls and encouraging the public to take a second look.

Free and open to the public, the exhibition and surrounding educational events raise awareness and inspire dialogue between the incarcerated and the community at large. The public is invited to an opening reception on March 24th from 5:30 – 8 p.m. in the gallery. Formerly incarcerated artists who have now reentered into the community will speak about what the show means to those in prison.

Participating artists express gratitude to organizers and gallery visitors alike, stressing the show’s impact on their lives and the community at large. “I believe that your program gives the public a glimpse into the type of things that inspire even the most downtrodden of us all” writes one artist. “When people see our work, for a few moments, they forget that this work was done by a felon, but by another human being. A human being who has the same thoughts, emotions, and inspirations as they do, and for that one moment, a major social and political barrier is shattered.”

Despite limited resources, exhibition artists create work in a rich range of styles, mediums, and themes. Visitors return to the show year after year to glimpse art that is remarkable for its originality, beauty, and sheer expressive power. Last year, over 4,000 people came to the exhibit. Organizers expect even higher attendance this year and an exciting array of new work.

This year’s exhibition, curated by Professors Buzz Alexander, Janie Paul, and Jason Wright, exhibits work from over forty prisons throughout the state. The curators, PCAP Administrators Lashaun phoenix Moore, and Sari Adelson, along with various volunteers travel to these prisons to hand select the strongest work from the artists. As a result of this annual event, the amount of art created in Michigan prisons has increased dramatically, and Michigan prison artists have become national leaders, inspiring others to create art behind bars.

The Prison Creative Arts Project will be celebrating the release of the first annual Literary Review of Writing by Michigan Prisoners in conjunction with the 14th annual exhibition. The lit review contains writings from both men and women incarcerated across the state of Michigan, and will be celebrated with formerly incarcerated writers and guest editor, Joey Bathanti, reading excerpts from the review.

The exhibition is to be accompanied by keynote speeches from acclaimed author of A Kind and Just Parent, and Chicago Citizen of the Year, William Ayers, poster artist/political activist Malaquias Montoya, and award winning author of Coventry, Joey Bathanti. In conjunction, a panel discussion on women and children inside prison will be held with journalist Silja Talvi, and executive director of Our Children’s Place, Melissa Radcliff. For a complete listing and description of events, please visit: http://www.lsa.umich.edu/english/pcap/pages/news.asp#sched.

Exhibition hours are 10 a.m. – 7 p.m. Tuesday – Saturday, and 12 p.m. – 6 p.m. Sun day – Monday.


Editors: Photos of art work and gallery available upon request.

Reporters: Option of previewing the show on Monday, March 23, upon request.

Watch a brief preview of the PBS documentary “Acts of Art: The Prison Creative Arts Project” here: http://www.michigantelevision.org/

logoplainFor More Information: call 734-647-7673 or email prisonart@umich.edu. www.prisonarts.org

Brothers in Pen: Tragedy, Struggle, and Hope (2008)

13 Feb

Stories from San Quentin

with a Foreword by Tobias Wolff


A new anthology of fiction and creative non-fiction written in an ongoing writing workshop at San Quentin State Prison by twelve men, mostly Lifers, all serious writers, is now available. A strong theme emerging from this collection is the nature of violence and its effects on human beings, and the kind of struggle required to turn violence around. The subtitle of this anthology, “Tragedy, Struggle, and Hope,” speaks to this vision. However, the seriousness of the subject matter doesn’t mean these stories are all heavy and harsh. There is much humor, wisdom, complexity and hope to be found in these pages.

You’ll encounter struggles of temptation and forgiveness, soul-searching inquiries into the past, tragic love stories, battle bots, psychogenic amnesia, first-person accounts of Black Power history, prehistoric family drama, gang cease-fires, tommyknockers, and much more.

The class had the honor of Tobias Wolff visiting and contributing a foreword for this book. “We are storytelling animals,” he writes, and this anthology is evidence of his words.

All proceeds from the sale of this book go through the William James Association to support this creative writing class through the Arts-in-Corrections program.
For purchase information, go to http://brothersinpen.wordpress.com, or contact brothersinpen@yahoo.com

Final Cover