SAVE ARTS IN CORRECTIONS!
To supporters of the San Quentin Creative Writing Class and the Arts in Corrections program:
Our program is in grave danger of being eliminated because of the current budget crisis. Though the classes themselves are funded through private grants, the program cannot continue without a facilitator who is a state employee, and our beloved Arts in Corrections facilitator at San Quentin, Steve Emrick, received his pink slip in early October with 120-day notice on his job. Facilitators at other prisons as well are being eliminated, making it unlikely that any arts program could continue.
There is a CHANCE that if there is enough outcry that we might be able to save Steve and other facilitators’ jobs, and therefore the program.
If you would be willing to write emails—or even better, paper letters—to some key people, it could make a difference!
Included below you will find addresses and links for more information.
Also, please forward this link to anyone you think might be sympathetic to the issue.
The sooner you can do this the better.
Thank you so much,
Sample letter (please adjust wording to align with your own opinions/experiences)
Dear _____ [send to as many as you can on the list below. There are some with email addresses—or you can call]
I’m writing because I have heard that the Arts in Corrections program is in danger due to the current budget crisis. While it is necessary that painful cuts are being made all across the state, it is also necessary for the state to support some rehabilitative programs that work, and we should hold on to those that provide the most “bang for the buck.” It has been well documented that Arts in Corrections provides a tremendous amount of rehabilitative value in terms of reduction in recidivism, reduction in violent incidents, skill building, and healthy socialization—all of which equals money in the bank for CDCR when inmates don’t return to prison or cause less problems while in prison. When funding for the program was eliminated in 2003, there was a groundswell of support which resulted in private foundations providing grants and many volunteer hours donated for the programs to continue in some prisons.
All the program needs to continue is a state employee to facilitate it.
Steve Emrick at San Quentin, who received his pink slip in early October, was recognized internationally last summer with an honor from the Dalai Lama for his compassionate work in Arts and Corrections. Now he is being laid off, after tirelessly working to find creative sources of funding and programming for the inmates at San Quentin.
As someone who has personally been encouraged through contact with the work of San Quentin’s Creative Writing class, I ask you to please find some way to keep Steve and the other artist facilitators’ jobs from being cut.
Thank you for doing anything you can to allow Arts in Corrections to continue.
HERE’S WHERE TO SEND LETTERS (Steve and I are included so we can collect all the letters):
Robert K. Wong, Warden (A), San Quentin State Prison, San Quentin, CA, 94964
Laura Bowman, Community Partnerships Manager, San Quentin State Prison, San Quentin, CA 94964, , firstname.lastname@example.org
Elizabeth Siggins, Acting Chief Deputy Secretary for Adult Programs, CA Department of Corrections & Rehabilitation, 1515 S Street, Suite 501S, Sacramento, CA 95811, email@example.com
Scott Kernan, Undersecretary, California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation, P.O. Box 942883, Sacramento, CA A 94283-0001
Steven Meinrath, Counsel, Senate Committee on Public Safety, Room 2031, State Capitol, Sacramento, CA 95814
Nettie Sabelhaus, Appointments, State Capitol, Room 420, Sacramento CA 95814
Matthew Cate, Secretary, California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation, P.O. Box 942883, Sacramento, CA A 94283-0001
Mark Leno, State Senator, State Senate District 03, 3501 Civic Center Drive, Suite 425, San Rafael, CA 94903, (415) 479-6612, firstname.lastname@example.org
Jared Huffman, State Assembly Member, State Assembly District 06, 3501 Civic Center Drive, Room 412, San Rafael, CA 94903, (415) 479-4920
If possible, please send copies also to:
Laurie Brooks, Executive Director, William James Association, P.O. Box 1632, Santa Cruz, CA, 95061, email@example.com
Steve Emrick, IAF, Institution Artist Facilitator, Arts-in-Corrections SQ, P.O.Box 206, San Quentin Village, CA, 94964, firstname.lastname@example.org
and here to email@example.com
Here’s a link to the announcement:
CDCR Reduces Offender Rehabilitation Programs <http://www.sacbee.com/static/weblogs/the_state_worker/090918%20cdcr.htm>
California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation Re-Organization Goals and Activities, (excerpt from http://www.cdcr.ca.gov/About_CDCR/History.html ):
“Continue to seek out partnerships and develop meaningful programs and processes to promote shared responsibility for community safety – knowing that offenders must have options to successfully reintegrate into the communities they came from.”
>>>This is the point that we want to reinforce – it is one of the CDCR’s own goals!<<<
Here’s Steve’s letter about all that he does in AIC:
I am the Artist Facilitator at San Quentin State Prison and have been coordinating a program that models all the “new “ aspects of CDCR’s rehabilitation efforts. I would like to make clear from the start that Arts in Corrections is an evidenced based program which prepares inmates to re-enter society and become a productive part of their communities. A recent study, by Professor Larry Brewster is soon to be released based on research of past participants that were in the program but are now out of prison and living productive lives. His study not only found that these men and women were out successfully in society, but many used the skills they learned in prison to create jobs and careers for themselves. Most of them still actively practice their art. Professor Brewster conducted a study of the cost benefit of the Arts program over twenty-five years ago, which were the bases for Corrections starting an Arts program for inmates at that time. A parole recidivism study done in the 1980’s found that inmates that were involved in the Arts in Corrections program had a much higher success rate on parole than the general population.
I work in partnership with a non-profit agency The William James Association that has been providing art services and artists teaching in prisons for over 25 years.
Three major funders support the program at San Quentin through the William James Association, which provides contracts with professional artists to instruct inmates in Painting, Drawing, Printmaking, Creative Writing, Guitar, Bookbinding, Mural painting, theater arts, and music performance. These organizations have provided a combined financial support of over $150,000.00 over the past five years. Private individuals have also donated to the program after visiting the workshops and witnessing the commitment of inmates and seeing the rehabilitative and transformative power of the arts.
I have a volunteer program made up of professional artists, university student interns and retired University professors. Collaboration with Santa Clara University’s theater program brings in students to perform and interact with inmate drama students. This project demystifies prison for the students and in many cases the men’s dedication to their craft is inspiring to the young people they meet. The inmate participants experience themselves as mentors and a productive part of society, even though they are behind prison walls.
Two organizations, which have been providing workshops and performances, which I facilitate at no cost to the Department of Corrections, are Bread and Roses and The Marin Shakespeare Company. Bread and Roses has been bringing in volunteer musicians and performers for the last six years, many of these Artist are nationally and internationally know. Over the years, Bread and Roses has coordinated bringing in Artist like Carlos Santana, Bonnie Raitt, many other well-known musicians. The Marin Shakespeare Company has been providing acting and theater workshops, which result in a major performance each year. These performances have attracted a lot of media attention and demonstrate the talent of inmates and the power of the arts to rehabilitate and prepare inmates for reentry into society.
The program has drawn the interest and support of many well-known individuals who have personally visited the program. Tobias Wolff, Chair of the Stanford University Creative Writing department and well-known writer with several books in print and movies based on his writing has been coming to san Quentin since 2004, when he first visited the creative writing program. He has also met with other programs and has helped fundraise for the Prison University Project. Patch Adams, clown and social activist whose life was made into a popular movie visited the arts program and conducted motivational workshops for inmates and San Quentin employees. Peace activist and musician Michael Franti and Spearhead gave a free yard show emphasizing tolerance and understanding one year after a major prison riot between Hispanic and black inmates encouraging the inmate population to work with each other using his celebrity to assist the administration toward this goal.
The program has also received national and international recognition for the quality and uniqueness of work done by inmates in the program. A portfolio of Block Prints created by inmates in the printmaking class is in the Library of Congress collection. A collaborative “tower Book Project “ has been in a collection touring the United States, Canada and England. Work from the creative writing program has been featured in magazines, anthologies, and the fourth edition of “Brothers in Pen” a collection of short stories and writing from inmate at San Quentin is in the works.
A mandala with the message “may peace prevail” written in seven different languages created by inmates in the program was part of an international exhibition and received an honorable mention for the message and quality of workmanship.
All the activities I have described were done out of my dedication to rehabilitation of inmates through the arts. None of this program was part of my job description as a mainline bridging instructor (passing out in cell study packets and meeting once or twice weekly with 54 inmates). I am grateful to the past Wardens and education administration for allowing me the ability to create what is a model of inmate rehabilitation through the arts. The use of outside volunteers, inmate peer instruction and non-profit agency support is not a new model but one that CDCR eliminated six years ago. I know that if my position is eliminated that an overworked community Partnership Manager will not be able to provide the on-going support of producing movement sheets, monitoring music equipment, art supplies and tools. I am very saddened by the prospect of six-years of work building a rehabilitative model using the arts, which is nationally and internationally recognized would disappear from San Quentin and that my twenty-years of creating and providing a program which transforms inmates into positive and productive citizens will be lost.
I understand that the Department has to make very difficult decisions in these current budget crises, and that it will have to rely on bringing outside support to continue the mission of rehabilitation. My position provides the department with a full range of support and funding at two-thirds of the cost of an academic teacher with my education and background. I like my colleagues at other institutions are committed and dedicated to the Art and it’s rehabilitative effect on inmates. I recently had the honor of being recognized by the Dali Lama for my 20 year of working with inmates through the arts.
This program cannot easily be rebuilt three or four years from now when hopefully the budget improves. Retaining this program now will provide an opportunity to expand the service it now provides and support the mission of CDCR.
San Quentin State Prison
In 1983, a cost/benefit analysis was done by Dr. Lawrence Brewster, Sociology Professor at California State University at San Jose. He found that the prison arts program reduced incidents of violence within the prison by 75-81% and saved close to double the cost of the program in measurable benefits such as security and medical costs. By 1987, it was proven that the program lowered recidivism rates by 51%. Dr. Brewster has just completed an updated version of this study which is to be released very soon. It similarly supports the strong conclusion that participation in the Arts in Corrections program greatly increases inmate success both inside and out of prison.