Melnick, M. (1984). Skills through drama: The use of professional techniques in the treatment and education of prison and ex-offender populations. Journal of Group Psychotherapy, Psychodrama and Sociometry, 37, 104-117.
Author Affiliations: New York City-based private consultant at time of study, presently at New York State Psychiatric Institute/Columbia University
Artforms: Drama, psychodrama, theater
Program: Skills through Drama
Program Description: The Skills through Drama program employed professional theater techniques to teach reading, writing, grammar and communication skills. Specifically, participants were instructed to:
● Create an improvisational set-up with a partner
● Act out the set-up
● Transcribe one’s own scene
● Edit the scene
● Help another student transcribe or edit
● View another student’s scene
Program (Study) Location: Adult Learning Center, Queens House of Detention Location: Queens, New York
Study Published: 1984
Participant Type: Adult inmates and ex-offenders
Sample Size: 300+
Data Type: Quantitative
● Pre- and post-participation administration of California Achievement Test
● Enrollment rates between 1975 and 1976 Fiscal Years
● Recidivism rates of 1978-79 drama workshop participants seven months after workshop
Evaluation Focus: Participation and effectiveness of the Skills through Drama program related to basic educational skills and outcomes.
Summary of Impact:
● Number of students participating in GED program more than doubled (from 121 students in 1975 to 349 in 1976) while the total number of student hours spent in the program increased from 22,880 hours in 1975 to 47,376 hours in 1976.
● 69% of participants stayed with the workshop even after it terminated its affiliation with the Adult Learning Center.
● At the end of the seven months, 7.15% of participants had been convicted on a first charge; 14.30% fled to avoid trial; 7.15% returned to jail on a second post-workshop charge; 71.40% were regularly employed and not charged with a second offense. This is compared with a national average of 85% of those released from prison experiencing rearrest within a year, most of those within the first four months of release.
KEYWORDS: academic achievement, adult, attendance, communication, drama, employment, psychodrama, reading, recidivism, Skills through Drama, theater, writing