California Arts Council

State of California

Press Release Detail

September 05, 2012Mary Beth Barber

California Arts Council Funds Arts-in-Corrections Pilot Project

Nonprofit California Lawyers for the Arts will work with experts to evaluate benefit of arts programs for behavioral and altitudinal changes of inmates

Sacramento -
The California Arts Council approved a grant in June of this year to California Lawyers for the Arts, a statewide nonprofit organization, to fund a pilot project designed to demonstrate the benefits of arts-in-corrections programs. The $10,000 grant will support arts programs in Central Valley correctional facilities, and the value of the program will be evaluated by public administration experts.

"Past research indicates that arts programs like music, theater and visual arts have been shown to have a positive impact on inmate behavior and reduce recidivism," said Craig Watson, Director of the California Arts Council. "Yet arts programs in correctional facilities have decreased significantly over the past decades. The Arts Council and California Lawyers for the Arts will examine the value of bringing these programs back."

California Lawyers for the Arts, in coordination with the William James Association (a leading arts-in-corrections provider based in Santa Cruz) will provide a robust pilot project and evaluation. This portion of the pilot expands upon similar arts-in-corrections project already started in the San Francisco Bay Area and supported by the San Francisco Foundation and the Gerbode Foundation. Two counties can be involved in the pilot for the Central Valley, with the Sacramento County project moving forward in Fall 2012, most likely at a woman's minimum-security facility.

California Lawyers for the Arts indicated that a number of other counties have expressed interest in being part of the project, including Tulare, Merced, Fresno, and Madera. The second county involved in the project will be determined in Fall 2012.

California Lawyers for the Arts demonstrated the great need and public good in examining arts programs in correctional facilities in the state. Data from the 1980s demonstrated that arts projects reduced the costs of disciplinary administration and reduced recidivism. For example, research from the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) showed that one year after release, arts-in-correction participants had a "favorable" status rate of 74.2%, compared to 49.6% for state parolees as a whole.

Despite their demonstrated positive social and economic impact, arts-in-corrections programs have decreased in the past three decades. The California Arts Council eliminated its nationally recognized Artist-in-Residence program in 2003-04 when the agency's General Fund allocation was cut by over 90%. The now-defunct program once placed artists in various community and government centers, including correctional facilities. Also, previous inter-agency agreements with CDCR established funding for Artist Facilitators across correctional facilities; these agreements also ceased with the decrease in Arts Council funding. Though CDCR continued to support arts in its facilities, programs have dwindled.

"Our project goal is to facilitate the development of a plan with key state and local agencies to restore these valuable programs," noted the application from California Lawyers for the Arts, "including art programs at the state penal institutions and county jails, as well as artist residencies coordinated with community organizations that prevent juvenile delinquency."

Members of the media interested in the pilot-project grant and proposed study may contact Mary Beth Barber, California Arts Council Information Officer, at 916-322-6588 or For more information on the California Arts Council, please go to .

The mission of the California Arts Council, a state agency, is to advance California through the Arts and Creativity. Members of the California Arts Council include: Chair Malissa Feruzzi Shriver, Vice Chair William Turner, Wylie Aitken, Michael Alexander, Andrew Green, Adam Hubbard, Charmaine Jefferson, Terry Lenihan, Susan Steinhauser, and Rosalind Wyman.

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