From the Executive Director …

25 June 2012

By Richard Benge

Richard Benge at the InsideOut exhibitionThe stories this month demonstrate the importance of leadership by prison staff in building bridges to the community via innovative arts programmes.

Ann Abraham, Prison Manager at Arohata Prison, was guest speaker at Art Access Aotearoa’s annual general meeting last month. What she said was so interesting and relevant to our work in promoting arts programmes as a tool supporting rehabilitation that we asked her if we could reproduce her talk in this month’s news.

Anne explains that for rehabilitative programmes to work they need to be innovative, respond to the needs of the prisoners, and use the services of community volunteers and resources.

Arohata was one of two prisons where Songs From the Inside was filmed. Rimutuka Prison was the other site where this extraordinary series was made. It’s
great news that songs written during the filming are now available on a 13-track album. Hopefully, you have been able to watch the final episode in which the prisoners hear the recordings of the songs they had written and sung. There were tears, a huge sense of pride and achievement, and huge smiles on their faces.

Songs From the Inside musiciansWe have reported in earlier stories how arts programmes in prisons can help form a bridge between prisoners and the communities they will return to. Donating the proceeds of art sales to charities that benefit the community provides prisoners with a source of self-esteem and the opportunity to give back. Songs From the Inside is another example of this. Proceeds for the CD sales will go to three charities: New Zealand Riding for the Disabled, Prison Fellowship New Zealand and the National Collective of Independent Women’s Refuges.

This whole project, from beginning to end, has been an excellent arts initiative. My congratulations to everyone involved.

I hope you have enjoyed reading all the items in our new-look “Prison Arts New Zealand”. As always, we welcome your feedback and story ideas.


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