- California Lawyers for the Arts in collaboration with Dr. Larry Brewster of the University of San Francisco, the William James Association, Fresno Arts Council, Community Works West, Jail Guitar Doors, Sacramento Metropolitan Arts Commission, Nevada County Arts Council, and Yuba Sutter Arts Council. (2016, revised 2018). Arts in Corrections County Jails Project.
Author Affiliations: N/A
Artforms: guitar, music, mixed-media collage, theater, movement, music, song writing
Program: California Arts in Corrections (AIC)
Program Description: In the wake of federal court mandates to reduce the overcrowding in California’s state prisons, more people are being confined for longer periods in county jails. Working with local arts agencies affiliated with county governments and other arts organizations, CLA began a multi-year project in 2015 to evaluate the effectiveness of arts engagement for inmates held in county jails throughout California. The first phase of the study, which was completed in January 2017, measured participants’ behavior at the end of programs in five counties. With support from the National Endowment for the Arts and the Quentin Hancock Fund, CLA’s team established the project in five additional counties in 2017 and has identified an additional eight that are interested in participating in 2018. Th: a beginning guitar course (18 weeks), mixed-media collage, 12-week theater and movement, 12-week music and song writing.
Program (Study) Location: Eight county jails in California: Santa Cruz Main Jail (William James Association, mixed-media collage); Fresno County Jail (Fresno Arts Council, beginning guitar); SF County Jail #5 – San Bruno Complex (Community Works West, theater/movement); MCJ Twin Towers Correctional Facility (L.A.) (Jail Guitar Doors, music/songwriting); Wayne Brown Nevada County Correctional Facility (Nevada Arts Council, theater); Sutter County Jail (Yuba Sutter Arts Council, drawing); Yuba County Jail (Yuba Sutter Arts Council, drawing).
Participant Type: Adult men and women, average age 36; varied educational backgrounds; 40% Hispanic/Latin American, 24% Caucasian.
Sample Size: 119
Study Published: Organizational publication, 2016, revised 2018
Data Type: Inmate surveys
Evaluation Focus: Behavioral and attitudinal changes experienced by program participants.
Summary of Impact: Overall, inmates reported attitudinal and behavioral changes that led to reduced disciplinary incidents. Benefits extended to families, communities and general public. The authors concluded, “The overwhelming majority of participants found the art program to be potentially life changing as they learned to feel better about themselves and others. They felt respected by their teachers,a dn they were able to express their emotions and communicate better with others. In the art classes, they experienced safer, less racially charged environments. Their engagement with making art reduced the tension and frustration often associated with their life experiences, including incarceration.” The revised 2018 report includes more than double the original (2016) number of respondents. There were also significant increases in improvements noted between the original 2016 report and the 2018 revision. Specific findings of the 2018 report:
- 92% of participants “strongly agreed” that arts instructors showed respect for each student; 7% “agreed”.
- 96% said they looked forward to art classes more than any other activity.
- 97% said they felt better about themselves.
- 94% said the program provided a safe environment for them to explore their creativity.
- 91% “agreed” or “strongly agreed” that “I Am Better Able to Communicate With Others.”
- 94% said they were “. . . Less Stressed and Frustrated When Working On My Art.”
- 88% felt better able to express their emotions.
- 90% felt there was less racial tension in the arts program than elsewhere in the facility.
- 82% said they “interacted differently” inside the arts program than elsewhere in the facility.
- 90% reported better relationships with other inmates since involvement with the program.
- 78% reported better relationships with jail staff since involvement with the program.
- 92% “strongly agreed” and 20.7% “agreed” that they had tried things in the arts programs that they never expected.
KEYWORDS: adult, attitudes, behavior, California Arts in Corrections, communication, community, discipline, emotional control, family, guitar, incidents, identity, intellectual flexibility, interpersonal skills, Jail Guitar Doors, male, mixed-media collage, movement, music, peer relations, prosocial, race, relationships, respect, self confidence, sense of self, songwriting, stress, theater