( Political Cartoon by David Beck-Brown)
New Prisons Chief Faces Tough Task
By David Beck-Brown
I work for the California Department of Corrections as a Bridging Artist/Teacher. Prior to last November, I coordinated up to a dozen professional artists in my position as an Institution Artist Facilitator. My department provided twenty-four hours of weekly face-to-face instruction to scores of inmates. We also were involved in several community projects. All my Contract Artists have since been laid off. I now go into the inmate housing units alone to deliver cell-front instruction to 54 inmates in four prison yards. I see each inmate for a half hour a week, totaling four days of instruction a year.That's it.
Believe it or not, this newly implemented Bridging Program has replaced the original Arts in Correction program which was documented to reduce inmate recidivism, inmate violence and the destruction of state property. Arts in Corrections made our prisons safer places for inmates and staff alike.
The past director, Edward S. Alameida, had a background in finance. He said he cut the Arts in Corrections program because (in his mind) it had little to do with incarceration. However, Arts in Corrections was documented to be a successful behavior-modification program that paid for itself. I hope that Jeanne Woodford, the new director of the California Department of Corrections, will see the value in programs like the old Arts in Corrections program.
Prison programs affect the attitudes and behavior of inmates who parole to our streets, rejoin our communities and live as our neighbors. What happens in our prisons affects all Californians.