Academic journal article Journal of Correctional Education

An Evaluation of an Arts Program for Incarcerated Juvenile Offenders

Academic journal article Journal of Correctional Education

An Evaluation of an Arts Program for Incarcerated Juvenile Offenders

Article excerpt

Abstract

This article focuses on the evaluation of an innovative arts program that facilitates teaching and interaction between artists and institutionalized juvenile offenders. A three year, multi-method evaluation was conducted of the program in order to examine its effects on participating juveniles. The research found that the academic, vocational, and behavioral goals of the arts workshops were accomplished to a very high degree, concrete participants acquired vocational skills, and youth had positive feelings of goal accomplishment. While involved in workshops, youth compliance with institutional rules was high and their behavior less disruptive at a statistically significant level. The results also begin to suggest that involvement in the art workshops had longer term effects as evidenced by relatively low recidivism for participants. The article concludes with discussions of practice implications and suggestions for future research.

Introduction

Recent juvenile justice policies depart from the traditional rehabilitative goals of the juvenile court in favor of more punitive responses to juvenile crime (Woolard, Fondacaro & Slobogin, 2001). This "get tough" approach is evidenced by a proliferation of zero tolerance policies, mandatory minimum sentences, efforts to try juveniles as adults, as well as proposals to abolish juvenile court entirely. Despite the recent decreasing rate in juvenile crime, there are an increasing number of youth entering the juvenile and criminal justice systems (National Research Council & Institute of Medicine [NRC/IOM], 2001). Based on the one-day count from the Census of Juveniles in Residential Placement, approximately 106,000 adjudicated juveniles were in residential placement in the United States in 1997 (OJJDP, 1999). Not surprisingly, the magnitude of incarceration is putting a strain on correctional facilities for youth. Reports of overcrowding and poor conditions in juvenile institutions are common (Krisberg & Howell, 1998; NRC/IOM, 2001; Puritz & Scali, 1998). Despite these circumstances, not only is information on juvenile corrections programming and practices minimum (NRC/IOM, 2001), too little is understood about the effectiveness of various correctional interventions in preventing further juvenile crime, not to mention other desirable outcomes.

This article focuses on the evaluation of an innovative arts program that facilitates teaching and interaction between artists and institutionalized juvenile offenders. In 1992, a curator, Ms. Susan Warner, launched a program called "A Changed World" (ACW). The program consists of short-term workshops that serve as the settings for interactions, experiential learning, and the production of stories, poems, sketches, videos, murals, sculptures and other artistic work. This article highlights the potential of arts programs to impact youth behavior both during incarceration and after release.

Literature Review

The concept of using the arts to reach at-risk youth is nothing new. Called art education, art workshops, arts programs, community art or creative arts therapy groups, these programs are as varied as the names used to describe them. Some programs utilize a particular artistic medium; others incorporate a broad definition of art (including drama, dance, and the visual arts). Though the programs may be "therapeutic" in nature, they are not "art (or music or drama) therapy." Art therapy involves a professionally trained therapist who used creative expression to generate insights for treatment or diagnostic purposes (Aulich, 1994). In contrast, arts programs are usually led by professional artists who may or, more often, may not have special training in working with at-risk populations. These programs focus on both the creative process and product while broadly defining "therapeutic" as any artistic activity that promotes positive change (Riches, 1994).

The arts possess a fundamental potential to impact individuals in many ways. …

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