Authors’ Circle participants live together in the same area of the facility during the program. Over time, they begin to trust one another, find commonalities, open up and understand that, even in jail, they’re part of a community.
Michigan is one of only five states that treat 17-year-olds as adults in the criminal justice system, which harms not only those young people being jailed but also local communities and the state economy.
After years behind bars at Kern Valley State Prison and the state lockup in Chino, California, Martin Leyva had grown accustomed to the brutal violence and volatility of prison life. Showing up for his first day of college following his release, on the other hand, was truly frightening.
If we believe education is a civil right that improves society and increases civic engagement, then the purpose of prison education shouldn’t be about training people to develop marketable skills for the global economy. Instead, learning gives us a different understanding of ourselves and the world around us, and it provides us tools to become more empathetic.
As the labor market tightens in our expanding economy, companies will need workers. And people returning to society from prison need jobs. Keeping potential employers and employees apart is fear, lack of understanding, and about 20,000 statutes and regulations across the country that restrict the hiring of ex-offenders.
Regardless of the state’s structure, students in juvenile facilities should not be left behind. The Every Student Succeeds Act gives states the flexibility to rethink how juvenile justice schools might be included in a state’s accountability plan in a way that takes into account the unique context of the facilities and student population.
Heather Griller Clark was a teacher for the Arizona Department of Juvenile Corrections, which operates its own one-school district at Adobe Mountain. Its teachers are all Arizona-certified and subject to the same requirements as public school teachers outside the fence for core content areas. Some are certified in vocational education, and those are the teachers Griller Clark is working with to improve the odds of success for youths who leave Adobe Mountain.
Environmental training programs can play a major role in transforming both the prison system and the communities most affected by the system. A prime example is San Quentin’s Insight Prison Garden Program. San Quentin partners with Planting Justice to provide master gardener training to inmates while they’re incarcerated, as well as to offer job placement after release.
In Denver, Colorado, Mile High WorkShop wants to be the first employer of record for a string of former inmates. Inside a 12,000-square-foot warehouse, those employees handle woodworking, sewing, and order fulfillment, and they manufacture ceramic components. In just two years, 50 people have moved through the company, with half finding permanent employment; just two have reoffended.
In a 2014 study by the National Endowment for the Arts called The Prison Arts Resource Project, the authors conducted an evaluation of 48 evidence-based studies that evaluated the impact of arts programs in U.S. prisons. Many of the studies found that inmates who participated in arts programs showed significant increases in motivation, self confidence, self-esteem, and work ethic.