The use of arts as rehabilitation for those that are incarcerated works towards a model of incarceration as a rehabilitative rather than punitive practice. Evidence has shown that arts programs within prisons are excellent outlets for self-expression and personal achievement as well as provide therapeutic and healing benefits. Expressive Art Workshops offer inmates and opportunity to be seen as emotionally available and creative human beings capable of change and empathy despite their crimes. The Human Element Project has developed a series of thought provoking workshops specifically designed to offer inmates an opportunity for self-exploration and expression through a variety of art mediums combined with expressive writing.

Rehabilitative Expressive Art Workshops for prison inmates

From the Inside Out

Art Journaling

WORKSHOP PROMPT: This exercise asks inmates to create a map of their life with a focus on the moment in time when a single choice made a difference for the rest of their life. Inmates are asked to map out their transitions from birth to present using pictures and words to tell their stories - highlighting that transitional moment.

SAMPLE WORKSHOP/ PROMPT: Body muraling is a fun and powerful way for one to reflect their own image by painting a life-size body mural. This can be done standing or lying on the ground. The initial drawing will be a bit distorted and the participants can make any adjustments they choose to refine the contour of the body. The accuracy is not important as the final painting should look and feel free form. Two promps are given for this workshop: Participants are asked to paint the inside of their bodies for reflect their “inner soul” - emotion; love, pain, passion, resolve, etc. Words can be included to enhance the communication of the piece. The second prompt asks the participant to paint the background of the mural to reflect how/where the participant sees themselves now or at one time in their life, or where they would like to be. Words and sentences should be added randomly to enhance the story of the mural.

NOTE: These are only a few samples of the workshops we offer. Each program can be modified to accommodate and specific space and time requirements of your institution.

Life Mapping

Victim/Offender Portrait Painting

Body Mural Painting

SAMPLE WORKSHOP/ PROMPT: Art journaling is an important component of healing through art. This workshop asks the participant to build their own art journal that they will begin to use during the class and will continue to make entries long after the workshop is completed. We will provide blank bound journals as well as a series of writing and art prompts. In addition to the prompts provided, the participants will work together to create their own prompts that will elicit visually and creatively powerful responses. A few creative exercises will help the participants learn drawing, painting and sketching techniques that will enhance their journals.

SAMPLE WORKSHOP/ PROMPT: Inmates were asked to paint a self portrait and to write a brief description of the persona they painted. This exercise was followed with a request to paint a portrait of the offender's victim. This could be the actual victim or someone who was victimized by their crime. After the portrait was complete, the inmate was asked to write a letter to their victim. Finally, The Human Element Project took the two images and digitally composed them so that half of each portrait sits side-by-side. The objective is for the offender to see them self "face-to-face" with their victim and to discuss how it felt to participate in the workshop and ultimately see them self side by side with their victim.