Sunday, September 16, 2012

Passing the Time: Expanding Opportunities for Self-Enhancement in Prison

The opportunities available for self-enhancement in prison organizations vary dramatically across federal and state institutions as well as public and private facilities.

I've spent time in four separate prisons in Texas. Some of the prisons offered college classes and gang renounciation/disassociation programs. Others only offered "life skills" type classes. Still others offered anger management, behavior modification, yoga, and meditation classes. All of the incarcerated individuals I spoke to in these facilities (both public and private) desired more. More opportunities for self-improvement, for growth, and for skill development that would benefit them as they transitioned back into "the world" as they called it.

In recent months, two such programs have perked my interest.
These programs are different than your traditional "life skills" training. They offer inmates both a "temporary" escape from their current situation and also encourage them to learn skills that might help them succeed outside the prison walls.

Sing Sing: Musical Connections Program
This program is part of the Carnegie Hall Outreach Program. Incarcerated individuals are paired with renowned artists for the purposes of composing and playing music together.  The music helps facilitate a transformation process in those who are lucky enough to take part in the program.
As one incarcerated individual explained:  "It gave me a way to say things that perhaps I couldn't articulate in words." You can watch the full story here.

Prison Seminary Project
World Impact Inc and Prison Fellowship have partnered together in this unique Christian based program. The goal of this program is to offer a "college-level seminary course that trains inmates to plant churches and evangelize in poor communities upon their release" (Flaccus, 2012). The courses are designed to be taken over the course of 3.5 years, and the program is now being offered in Michigan, Florida, Colorado, and California. You can find the full story here.

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