32. Reiter, Sherry. (2010). “Poets-behind-bars: A creative “righting”  project for prisoners and poetry therapists-in-training.” Journal of Poetry Therapy, 23(4), 215-238.

Author Affiliations: Creative writing Center, New York City and Touro College, Hofstra University, Long Island
Artforms: Creative writing, poetry
Program: Poets-Behind-Bars (PBB)
Program (Study) Location: Penitentiary of New Mexico, Santa Fe, New Mexico
Program Description: PBB is a long-distance writing program in which poetry therapy trainees mentor poets-behind-bars.
Study Published: December 2013
Participant Type: Adult male maximum-security offenders
Data Type: Qualitative: pre- and post-questionnaires
Study Design: This study was designed to “assess changes in personal growth, emotional balance, and increased self-expression over a periods of a year and a half” among inmates participating in the poetry program.
Evaluation Focus: Changes in personal growth, emotional balance and self-expression

Summary of Impact: Researchers noted a “slight increase in emotional balance” but concluded that “the number of questionnaires completed [were] too few to show any scientific validity. “Soft evidence” came from participant commentary on final questionnaires, which reflected perceptions of enhanced creativity, expressiveness, emotional release, communication and poetry skills.

KEYWORDS: adult, creative writing, creativity, emotions, poetry


57. Simmons, Lisa. (2017).  The Relationship between Delinquency and Creative Writing for Detailed Adolescent Males. Auburn University, Auburn, AL.

Author Affiliations: Auburn University, Auburn, AL
Artforms: Creative writing, poetry, prose
Program: Writing Our Stories: An Anti-Violence Creative Writing Program (WOS)
Program Description: Writers teach poetry- and prose-writing skills to incarcerated youth in Alabama.
Program (Study) Location: Alabama
Study Published: Doctoral dissertation, 2017
Participant Type: Incarcerated juvenile offenders grades 8-12.
Sample Size: 461: 231 participating in WOS, 230 in control group
Data Type: Quantitative: Pre- and post-testing using oppositional and unruly subscales of the Millon Adolescent Clinical Inventory (MACI) and the Wechsler Abbreviated Scale of Intelligence.
Evaluation Focus: Delinquency, intelligence, IQ

Summary of Impact: Statistically significant difference in pre- and post-treatment scores for WOS participants on the oppositional subscale of delinquency. No statistically significant scores from pre- and post-treatment on the unruly subscale of the MACI for either WOS participants or controls. No statistically significant difference in scores from pre- to post-detainment on the oppositional subscale in control group.

KEYWORDS: creative writing, delinquency, intelligence, IQ, juvenile, poetry, prose, writing, Writing Our Stories, youth

Evaluation Resources

The following references present information on program implementation as well as methodologies to effectively evaluate the impact of prison arts programs. These may serve to guide future researchers when studying how and how well prison arts programs work. They may also aid in the design and implementation of future programs.


Balfour, M. and Poole, L. (1998). Evaluating Theater in Prisons and Probation. In Thompson, J. (Ed) Prison theater: Perspectives and Practices. London and Philadelphia: Jessica Kingsley Publishers, p. 217-230.

Argues for the benefits and necessity of evaluating the effectiveness of arts in prison and probation. Presents theories and methodologies of evaluation.

Hillman, Grady (2000). Evaluation, Advocacy and Sustainability in Arts Programs for Juvenile Offenders in Detention and Corrections: A Guide to Promising Practices. Washington, D.C.: Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention and National Endowment for the Arts, p. 23-25.

“Advocacy and evaluation activities that generate program recognition are critical components both to community acceptance and to the financial sustainability of juvenile justice arts programs” (p. 23).

Miller, Jerry and Rowe, William S. (Winter 2009). Cracking the Black Box: What Makes An Arts Intervention Program Work? Best Practices in Mental Health , 5(1), 52-64.

A review of “the limited literature on arts programming to identify a core set of practices that may be linked to positive outcomes [for arts programming for at-risk youth]. A template that identifies key components was developed to guide program implementation as well as future research” (p. 52).

Ploumis-Devick, E. (2011). Foreword in Shailor, J. (Ed.) Performing New Lives: Prison Theater . London and Philadelphia: Jessica Kingsley Publishers, p. 7-15.

Identifies three essential elements of effective arts-based programs as a mutually beneficial partnership with correctional professions; replicable and compatible program architecture; result-focused programming and implementation consistency (p. 7).

Williams, R.M. (2003). Evaluating Your Arts-in-Corrections Program” in Williams. Teaching the Arts Behind Bars . Boston: Northeastern University Press, p. 167-180.

Why evaluation is important, how to plan for an evaluation, what to look for when hiring an external evaluator, what to expect in a final report, and a way to do your own evaluation (p. 167).

YouthARTS Development Project (1998). Evaluation. In YouthARTS Handbook: Arts Programs for Youth At Risk. Americans for the Arts, p. 123-177.

How to conduct your own process and outcome evaluation, benefits and challenges of a well-planned program evaluation, a step-by-step approach for evaluating arts program outcomes and other best practices from the field.