November 10th, 2020
In this blog series on how the arts are helping people who are isolated due to the COVID-19 pandemic, I have talked about how teaching artists are reaching patients and healthcare workers in hospitals, as well as older adults who are isolated in their homes or in residential care facilities. This final blog will look at a population that is often forgotten during times of crisis–people who are incarcerated in jails or prisons.
Arts programs in a range of disciplines, such as visual arts, dance, and theater, have taken place in prisons, jails, and juvenile detention facilities for decades. The work has been shown to create positive outcomes for not only the inmates but also staff and society as a whole. The effects are educational, behavioral, psychological, and vocational. The transformative effects of arts engagement on incarcerated individuals include improved emotional regulation, reduced anxiety and anger, better coping skills, improved social relations with other prisoners and corrections staff, more positive bonds with other prisoners, reduced disciplinary incidents, improved overall educational outcomes, and reduced recidivism. These programs also help prepare inmates to better function in society upon release.