The beginning of the Alabama Prison Arts + Education Project was not formed on a particular day in the past. It was and continues to be an evolutionary and dynamic program fueled by a dedicated group of artists, writers and scholars who believe that knowledge and creative development can change someone’s life.
The first phase of what is now APAEP was established in 2002 and called the Alabama Prison Arts Initiative. APAEP was first funded by the National Endowment for the Arts in 2003. The Center for the Arts & Humanities in the College of Liberal Arts at Auburn University served as the fiscal agent for the small initiative. In 2004, APAEP took its current name when it became a full-time program of Caroline Marshall Draughon Center for the Arts & Humanities.
APAEP grew from one poet teaching in one prison, to a pool of more than 50 writers, artists, scholars and visiting writers teaching in 12 correctional facilities in Alabama. Course offerings have expanded from poetry and creative writing to southern literature, photography, African-American literature, Alabama history, drawing and many other classes.
In 2008, APAEP moved to the Department of Psychology in the College of Liberal Arts. This move has served to strengthen APAEP in multiple capacities. Graduate students and faculty at Auburn are now directly involved in research on the effects of APAEP programming.
The goals of APAEP have always been to place rich creative and intellectual opportunities into Alabama’s prisons, a remarkably undeserved population.
Training programs in United States
The Bard Prison Initiative (BPI) is restoring higher-education to the prisons of New York. For over twenty years, college-in-prison programs slashed rates of reincarceration from 60% to less than 15%. They spread higher-education among the most isolated communities and were the most cost-effective form of public correctional spending. Despite these facts, funding for prison colleges was eliminated in 1995, at the peak of the ‘tough on crime’ frenzy in American electoral politics. Within that year some 350 such programs closed nationwide, ending the presence of the most affordable and transformative programs in American criminal justice.
In an environment with limited opportunities for individual expression and artistic exploration, SPACE provides inmates with a rare forum for critical engagement and creative thought. Working in teams of two or three, Brown students design and lead weekly workshops that emphasize participation, performance, play, collaboration, reflection, skill-building and creative expression within a safe and constructive space. For inmates who wish to showcase their work, SPACE publishes an annual collection of inmate art and writing and hosts a Gala exhibition open to the community. In addition to granting inmates a sense of ownership and pride, these productions give voice to traditionally silenced members of society.
To advance Wesleyan’s commitment to civic engagement by offering college courses to incarcerated individuals, in order both to enrich the lives of those who are systematically denied access to educational opportunities and to enhance Wesleyan’s academic community.The Center for Prison Education offers a high-caliber liberal arts education inside prison walls. Through the CPE, prisoners at the Cheshire and McDougal Prisons are invited to apply to become Wesleyan University students. After a rigorous application process, eighteen selected students are transferred to Cheshire Prison, where they are enrolled in accredited college courses taught by Wesleyan faculty members.
The Cornell Prison Education Program provides a liberal arts curriculum leading to an Associate of Arts degree for men incarcerated at the Auburn and Cayuga Correctional Facilities. Cornell faculty and doctoral students serve as instructors for all courses, and a community college accredits the degree conferred upon eligible prisoners.
The mission of the Education Justice project is to build a model college-in-prison program that demonstrates the positive impacts of higher education upon incarcerated people, their families, the communities from which they come, and society as a whole. We offer education programs to students incarcerated at Danville Correctional Center; host activities for their family members in Chicago; and produce critical scholarship about our work.
Inside-Out is an opportunity for college students to go behind the walls to reconsider what they have come to know about crime and justice. At the same time, it is also an opportunity for those inside prison to place their life experiences in a larger framework. Inside-Out creates a paradigm shift for participants, encouraging transformation and change agency in individuals and, in so doing, serves as an engine for social change.
Through college classes and community exchanges, individuals on both sides of prison walls are able to engage in a collaborative, dialogic examination of issues of social significance through the particular lens that is the “prism of prison.”
Inside-Out creates a dynamic partnership between institutions of higher learning and correctional systems in order to deepen the conversation about and transform our approaches to understanding crime, justice, freedom, inequality, and other issues of social concern. Inside-Out brings college students together with incarcerated men and women to study as peers in a seminar behind prison walls.
The Performing Arts and Social Justice (PASJ) Major trains young artists to create an humane and just society through their craft. Our mission is deeply aligned with the core values of Jesuit education; we see performance as a powerful tool for promoting positive change.
Every semester, more than 900 students participate in the Performing Arts Department’s classes, productions, concerts, and events. Our department offerings seek to expose the USF community to different styles and artistic approaches, celebrate diversity, creatively reflect on important issues of our times, and become inspired to find the artist-activist in themselves.
At whatever level or course of study, performing arts students at USF:
- Gain a historical foundation of the Performing Arts from the classics to contemporary practices within a context cultural diversity.
- Develop technical and conceptual skills related to the practice of their craft (Dance, Music, Theater).
- Acquire and use practical skills for community-based artistic work, and learn how this form of artistic engagement contributes to a more inclusive and just society.Well Contested Sites
Prison + Neighborhood Arts Project is a visual arts and humanities project that connects teaching artists and scholars to men at Stateville Prison through classes, workshops and guest lectures. Classes offered include subjects ranging from poetry, visual arts, film study to history.
Resources for Prison Education Programming
The mission of the Prison University Project is to provide excellent higher education programs to people incarcerated at San Quentin State Prison; to create a replicable model for such programs; and to stimulate public awareness and meaningful dialogue about higher education and criminal justice in California.
Reforming Arts provides arts and higher education opportunities to women in Georgia’s criminal justice system, empowering them to critically examine their experiences and develop the knowledge, skills and behaviors to support successful re-entry.