Higher Education at
Whitworth Women's Facility
At Reforming Arts we believe in and rely heavily on Paulo Freire's theories of Pedagogy of the Oppressed as well as Augusto Boal's Theatre of the Oppressed and David Diamond's Theatre for Living. After much experimentation, we have concluded that improvisational techniques build trust, allows for a safe space for storytelling, inspires creativity, and provides a place to build community. Furthermore, co-learner facilitated liberal arts classes creates empowered critical and creative thinkers.
The higher the degree the lower the recidivism rate
A study by the Department of Policy Studies at the University of California at Los Angeles found that “a $1 million investment in incarceration will prevent about 350 crimes, while that same investment in [correctional] education will prevent more than 600 crimes. Correctional education is almost twice as cost effective as incarceration.” Post-secondary education also yields multiple public benefits, including greater societal productivity, increased tax revenue and decreased reliance on governmental support. In a 2005 IHEP survey, more people with a high school diploma reported receiving public assistance in every state than did those with a bachelor’s degree, and in 28 states no one with a bachelor’s degree reported receiving public assistance in the prior year. IHEP concluded that“prison higher education programs can be a cost-effective investment of taxpayer dollars.”
Prison education is far more effective at reducing recidivism than other prisoner reform methods, according to the National Institute of Justice. In 2001, the Correctional Education Association’s “Three State Recidivism Study” quantified this reduction, demonstrating that correctional education lowered long-term recidivism by 29%. A 2005 Institute for Higher Education Policy report cited even higher success rates, reporting that recidivism rates for incarcerated people who had participated in prison education programs were on average 46% lower than the rates of incarcerated people who had not taken college classes. The same report examined 15 different studies conducted during the 1990s and found that 14 of these showed reduced long-term recidivism rates among people who had participated in postsecondary correctional education.
Theater Re-Entry Project
Reforming Arts' Theatre Reentry Project started as an organic extension of our work inside the prison. As former students were released and began contacting us and telling us similar stories about the struggle of reentry we saw a need for reentry support. Our response was to ask these alums if they would like to get together and share their stories with each other and create a play about their experiences. A few of the women were charged with finding other formerly incarcerated women to join our group. We then asked the universities and departments that we were most closely affiliated with if they would like us to come and perform our script. The response was outstanding and overwhelming. So far we have written two versions of Barefoot In the Grass and a second play, It Makes Me Think: Stories of Women and Reentry.
The goals of TRP is to change the narrative about the criminal justice system in Georgia and to provide support to our students and other reentering women.