Talofa Lava everyone. At the moment, the Arts in Corrections sector is reliant on champions – people who uphold the arts and understand their value in supporting rehabilitation and reintegration into the community on release.
Champions advocate for the arts on their respective sites. They have designed programmes and connected with artists in the community to deliver it. But if this key person leaves the prison, their arts projects and programmes often come to an end because there is no one else driving them. As in other areas of Arts Access Aotearoa’s work, we know that this “champions” model is not sustainable in the long term.
One obvious example of a champion is Beth Hill, art tutor and education facilitator at Northland Region Corrections Facility. To appreciate the value of its arts programming, I encourage you to read the blog written by a member of the Redemption Performing Arts group at the Northland facility. In this blog, he talks about his anger, depression and issues with authority before joining the group in 2016.
My journey through the arts and creative industries
Now, he writes: “I am proud of everything I have achieved over the years and I know I’m very lucky to have had these opportunities. My journey through the arts and creative industries is my pathway to a more positive and productive future. I feel the arts and creativity will always have a place in prison. There is a need for it. I NEEDED IT!”
A story about the value of strategic delivery in this month’s e-news, Empowering women on a journey of change, is about an annual Community Corrections programme, Te Whariki Manaaki (The Nurturing Mat). This programme was inspired by the Department of Corrections’ strategy for women, Wahine e rere ana ki te pae hou: Women’s Strategy 2017–2021, which is all about addressing the needs of women offenders and helping them turn around their lives.
Thank you, Jill Chamberlain, another champion of the arts as a tool supporting rehabilitation and transformation.
We’ll shortly be meeting with Corrections to discuss what could result in a national strategy to deliver effective arts programmes. This would support both Ara Poutama Aotearoa Department of Corrections’ Hōkai Rangi Strategy 2019–2024 and also the Women’s Strategy.
Part of this discussion would include how to provide consistent support, resourcing, professionalism, documentation and evaluation processes, and ultimately improve outcomes for prisoners across each of the 18 prisons managed by the Department of Corrections.
Illustrating the value of supporting the arts as part of the rehabilitative process
There is a wealth of stories and feedback on the Arts Access Aotearoa website, illustrating the value of supporting the arts as part of the rehabilitative process. So too overseas: you can read these research reports, also on our website. It includes, for example, Arts, Culture and Innovation in Criminal Justice Settings. This report, published in 2016 in the UK, uses research evidence and case studies to demonstrate the need for quality arts programmes in prisons.
I facilitate three regional Arts in Corrections networks (the Northern Region Network, the Lower North Island Network and the South Island Network) to support Corrections staff to deliver arts projects. These networks include Corrections staff and volunteers, Community Corrections staff, artists and writers, academics, and people in the wider community interested in arts and social justice.
Here are some ideas to promote the benefits of the arts as a valuable tool supporting rehabilitation. Start conversations in your workplace. Do a survey of arts programming at your site and think about how you can better support these programmes. Talk to management about the arts on your site and where you see the arts fitting within the Hōkai Rangi Strategy and the Women’s Strategy.
Attend the upcoming Arts in Corrections meetings in your regions. For more information, please contact me via email .
How you can change perceptions
An important way you can change perceptions about offenders, prisons and the role of the arts in Corrections facilities is by telling stories. If you have an Arts in Corrections event happening on your site, let us know about it and we can promote it in our next e-newsletter or on social media. Promoting these initiatives helps with profiling the importance of arts programming. For more information email Iona McNaughton, Arts Access Aotearoa’s Communications Manager.
Another way to promote your site is by nominating people who are leaders in Arts in Corrections for an Arts Access Corrections award. Nominations are now open and more information and nomination forms are available on our website. This year, we’ve simplified the process to make it easier for people to apply: you only have to complete one question.
Receiving an award is a great way to recognise achievement, boost morale and profile the successes of all the staff, contractors and volunteers who work so hard to deliver effective arts and cultural programmes.