Shakespeare in Prisons

Shakespeare in Prisons

1% of population in prison 2 million prisoners

California has 21 prisons

US 5% of world population, 25% of worlds prisoners

Kurt Tofflin started Shakespeare Behind Bars

Marin ­ 2 Shakespeare classes at San Quentin

Just added Solano Prison classes

Link to Drama Therapy

8 months to rehearse Shakespeare play, one performance

Then identify themes and write autobiographical short plays

Solano ­ no prior arts programming

Wayne Cook ­ California Arts Council

Arts in Corrections

California had largest Arts in Corrections program, 2003 cut to


Mr Cook began at Folsom State Prison

Inmates are protective of arts programs and facilitators

Matt Wallace ­ Shakespeare Behind Bars/Kentucky


Menteed Kurt Tofflin

12 programs/2 states

Give them the play for the summer, let them study it and self-
cast the play

Also works with juveniles

5 facilitators in Kentucky, 5 in Michigan

Recidivism rate for arts in corrections is 5%, compared to 68%


Medium security prison (program oriented prison)

No death row, but long term sentences

Funded entirely by donations from individuals

Kate Powers ­­ Sing Sing

Rehabilitation Through the Arts

Sing Sing is Max A (maximum security prison)

Workshops, classes, one major production each year in each


3 performances for prison population, 1 performance for invited

community members

“Community realizes they are human, not monsters that they


Not just Shakespeare, steering community decides on

workshops and participants, they pick the plays

Family’s are now allowed in, men wanted to do Wizard of Oz

for kids

Scott Jackson ­­ Shakespeare at Notre Dame

Social justice mission at school

Examining “crisis of incarceration”

Notre Dame is hosting STA 2016, Practicum will be Prison


Shakespeare Prison Arts Network ­ soon to have web


Mary Beth Barber ­ California Arts Council

Policy trends start in California, move east

Prison population explosion, federal law suit to reduce


This lawsuit created incentive for rehabilitation

State sectioned rehabilitation money, now rehab money is


Pilot project happened last summer

10% in state prison have never committed a serious or violent


Serious race problem

Why is Shakespeare good?

­ established script without copyright issues

­ education component

­ touches human experience in so many ways

­ “evidence­based” programming to prove effect on recidivism,

we still need to prove arts in corrections effect

Arts therapy is taught by therapists, has an end goal

Arts in corrections brings arts to prison setting


Difference between men’s and women’s facilities?

Kate Powers: women more interested in creating/writing their

own work, men want to engage with classical work

Lesley Currier: great to engage both Shakespeare and devised


Scott Jackson: Cathartic vs redemptive experience

Actors Shakespeare Project Boston ­ pushback on content with

girls in juvenile setting?

Mary Beth Barber: always pushback on content, resistance to

video of Caribbean dance. Could you work with a

therapist/psychologist to overcome? Strong women have an

advantage in a room of men who don’t have many female


Lesley Currier: practice being human. The classical canon buys

a lot of ground in terms of content

Matt Wallace: always walk lightly in facility, don’t leave

footprint, realize you’re a guest. Also important to get buy in

from staff/administrators, communication with staff.

Is CAC working with juveniles?

Mary Beth Barber: CAC isn’t providing funds, it’s coming from

the prisons rehabilitation fund, more programming will come


Can one successful program grow out into other facilities?

Mary Beth Barber: start talking to foster care programs, to

address youth

What’s the future of arts programming?

Mary Beth: we need solid research to prove evidence based to

continue past 3 years

What about resistance from victims rights associations?

Mary Beth: tide has shifted since Polly Klaas days, there will

always be that presence


Mary Beth: 1m per year

Scott Jackson: sweat equity & gas

Matt Wallace: 60k


Correctional officers resistant

Rehearsal process/curriculum/structure?

Matt Wallace: learn to not have structure

Lesley Currier: a lot of drama therapy ­ check­in, act out

someone’s challenges, warm ups, acting lesson, rehearsal.

Once they get script, table work happens for a few weeks.

Group decision making ­ what’s a line that stuck out from

today, make a statue, make a song. End with appreciations.

Hamlet on Marin Shakes website

Matt Wallace: start with trust exercises, ensemble building

before beginning rehearsal

Aren’t the guys who are self selecting to be in the program

already motivated for betterment?

Kate Powers: when studying specific inmates, they have shown

violence is reduced

Matt Wallace: juveniles are shown to

If you can run 12 programs for $60,000 and it costs the same

for one inmate for one year, no­brainer

“The thing with rta is that it makes you think differently. If you

think differently you can act differently”

“Now I know better, so I can do better.”

Scottjackson (at) offers his email if anyone has any questions


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s