Arts in prisons

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NICRO unreservedly welcomes the recent announcement by the Department of Correctional Services regarding the reintroduction of art in prisons.

Celia Dawson, Deputy CEO of NICRO, said in a statement today that there is no doubt that creative activity, be it fine arts, poetry, crafts, music and dance contribute significantly to overall personal development. Within the context of incarceration and imprisonment, these creative activities facilitate in raising self awareness, emotional intelligence and changing behaviour.

The DCs decision to reintroduce these activities is definitely a very positive step in the right direction. It builds on the Creative Arts Competition which was a service introduced in 1996 by NICRO focusing on a number of arts categories such as Calligraphy, Leatherworks, Matchstick building, Needlework, Painting, Poetry and Prose, Pottery and woodcraft.

This popular competition was open to all prisoners, and provincial and national finalists were always brought to gala Awards evening where they were honoured for their creations and received prizes. NICRO was able to offer this service for ten years, and many budding artists were acknowledged during this period. Inmates received the proceeds of sales if their works were on sale, and many pieces were sold to overseas guests attending the gala evenings.

In a 2006 evaluation NICRO has found the Prison Creative Arts can be beneficial as a therapeutic activity that assists incarcerated persons in reflecting on their thinking, emotions and behaviour. It raises their self awareness regarding their offending behaviour and in this way promotes rehabilitation. But it is also a vehicle for skills development and presents possibilities of livelihood. It can also assist in reducing volatile behaviour and in so doing help in the management of prisons.

DCS is to be congratulated with this progressive step in offender care and we hope that this project can be replicated to all 240 prisons in the country.