Printer Friendly

Learning to C: visual arts education as strengths based practice in juvenile correctional facilities.

Strength-based approaches, originating in juvenile justice as early as the late 1800s, situate the work of juvenile correctional facilities as assisting youth in utilizing their strengths and competencies to understand how they can be applied their lives to affect change and growth. While strengths-based approaches might have originated philosophically in juvenile justice they have not persisted in practice. In this qualitative case study of an art program in a juvenile correctional facility, visual arts acts a bridge between philosophy and practice to demonstrate how strength-based practices can affect change and growth with incarcerated youth. Specifically, this study demonstrates how visual arts education as a strength-based practice in juvenile correctional facilities offers youth the opportunity for change and growth to occur when their strengths, past successes, present behaviors and possible futures emerge. Specifically, visual arts education is situated as strength-based practice that allows young men who are incarcerated to "see" themselves actively engage in the 5 C's--connection, community, contribution, concentration, and completion.


Education has the potential to be a space for effecting growth and change with students in juvenile correctional facilities. The National Institute of Justice and the National Academy of Sciences uniformly includes educational components in juvenile facilities as the foundation for their growth and learning (Gottfredson, Gottfredson, Czeh, Cantor, Crosse, & Hantman, 2004, Johnson, 1999; Roush, 1996). Unfortunately, these goals are difficult to accomplish with national trends in public schools have shifted toward more education as skill building in core academic subjects rather than focusing on a balanced curriculum. Nowhere is this truer than in the confines of correctional facilities where young people spend their time in classrooms concentrated only on core subject areas--math, science, language arts, and social studies (Ayers, 1998). This strong focus on reading, 'riting, and 'rithmatic ignores the 4th R that has shown great potential in juvenile correctional facilities to facilitate change and growth--aRt (Ohler, 2000).

Visual art education can be a conduit through which students in juvenile correctional facilities can engage in all that is possible in education including

learning to appreciate one's own [and other's] talents and potential, learning to set goals, learning to postpone gratification, learning to accept responsibility for one's behavior, developing a personal investment in the well-being of others, learning to interact and communicate effectively, and learning to resolve conflicts and solve problems. (Roush, 1996, p. 10)

These types of goals through art education situate education as a strength-based practice approach to change (Clark, 1999, 2001; Hallerby, 2002).

Strength-based approaches, originating in juvenile justice as early as the late 1800s, situate the work of juvenile correctional facilities as assisting youth in utilizing their strengths and competencies to understand how they can be applied their lives to affect change and growth (Clark, 1999, 2001; Bendtro & Ness, 1995; Hallerby, 2002; Saleebey, 2002). Clark (1999) has argued that while strengths-based approaches might have originated philosophically in juvenile justice they have not persisted in practice.

Visual arts education in juvenile correctional facilities can create a bridge between philosophy and practice to demonstrate how strength-based practices can affect change and growth with incarcerated youth. The arts engage the hand, eye and brain, expressing the identity of the whole person. But crucially they encourage a natural self-discipline and autonomy, very different from an imposed synthetic cognitive version of education currently offered (p. 177). In this article, visual arts education is situated as a strength-based practice in juvenile correctional facilities that offers youth the opportunity for change and growth to occur when their strengths, past successes, present behaviors, and possible futures emerge. Visual arts education as strength-based practice allows young men who are incarcerated to "see" themselves actively engage in the 5 C's--connection, community, contribution, concentration, and completion.

Art Education as Strengths-Based Practice

Strengths-based approaches to education for incarcerated youth center on four assumptions: 1) incarcerated youth have strengths that can be built upon; 2) incarcerated youth must be involved in decisions about how they spend their "time"; 3) the present and the future are much more important than the past; and 4) behavioral and cognitive changes for incarcerated youth to be accountable are brought about through action (Clark, 1997, 1999, 2001; Saleebey, 2002; Weick, Rapp, Sullivan, & Kisthardt, 1989). Together, these assumptions create a framework for multiple types of approaches to working with incarcerated youth--what is rarely discussed is art education as shift from theory to practice of strength based approaches.

Creating art is something that many incarcerated youth already participate in so offering visual arts education pulls on strength and interest that already exists. According to Kornfeld (1997) who writes about prison art, almost all people who are incarcerated participate in the arts in some form or other; they are either creating it or buying it, or both. Art is a way to give something back to family and friends or a currency which can be exchanged for commissary (Harrington 1997, Kornfeld 1997, Riches 1994, Williams, 2003). What many people do not recognize is that participating in the arts while in prison, juvenile detention, or jail is a great deal more than killing time or currency; it is a powerful strength that provides an approach for growth and change.

With youth that are incarcerated, educators can't always negotiate "if" they comply but they can always negotiate "how" or "why" they comply (Clark, 2001). Because visual arts are a skill that many incarcerated youth already take part, art education provides engagement in which they are interested in participating. In this way, arts education is a strength-based practice because many will choose to participate in art programs because it provides a high-interest venu, and the opportunity to engage in education that provides "some modicum of control, in this escape from a world that affords them very little" (Venable, 2005, p. 52).

Strength-based practices focus on now and the future, and situates actions in these times as far more important than the past could ever be. Outcomes in art education are difficult to quantify and direct cause-and-effect is almost impossible to make, so it is impossible to suggest that teaching art in youth correctional facilities will guaranty a dramatic decrease in recidivism or completely change adjudicated youth's view of the world (Venable, 2005; Harrington 1997, Kornfeld 1997, Riches 1994, Williams, 2003). However, the outcomes of art education offer potential to provide the spaces for small achievable beginnings in the classroom and beyond. The hope in art education as strength-based education is that small changes can ripple out to affect change (Clark, 1999).

The change and growth that occur through arts education exist because incarcerated youth usually do not pretend to do art or focus directly on change in behavior; instead, they do art. "Doing" art is a process in which all youth in the class experiment with a variety of materials, express their own ideas and feelings and make discoveries. Unlike some other subjects of learning, art cannot be taught through "giving" art skills to the students; it cannot be possessed through endless explanations and demonstrations like a mathematic formula; to be an artist, one must engage in the practice of making art (Billington, 2002). When students experience this, like other strengths-based practices, arts education engages incaracerated youth in action where they are introduced and participate in competing realities that are optimistic. The process of making art creates the spaces for youth to engage in an active life, rather than a passive one. Specifically the "doing" modality of art is about imagination and seeing the world with a new perspective, representing and re-representing the self, and taking ideas into action (Greene, 2000). This action then, has the potential, to raise motivation and cooperation as well as promote behavioral and cognitive changes for youth. Action through arts education precipitates acceptance of responsibility, exploration of opportunities for making choices, and enhanced incarcerated youth's level of patience and tolerance in dealing with others (Peaker & Vincent, 1991; Venable, 2005).

This type of strengths-based education is more effective than traditional classroom education in meeting the vision of increased action and cooperation, and offers promise that cognitive based interventions cannot (Clements, 2002; Conrad & Hedin, 1982). Visual arts education situates the youth and the facilitators at work with each other in connection and communication, interacting through the art. Additionally, the youth engage art through direct experiences in conceptualizing, creating, and appreciating art.

The Study

This qualitative case study of The Artist Inside Program was conducted over the course of two years. During that time, The Program served 46 young men who were incarcerated in a juvenile correctional facility in the Southwest United States. These students were served by the program that was offered four separate times (once each academic semester) and lasted 12-20 weeks each session. The course lasted 2 1/2 hours long, so the contact hours with the youth ranged from 30-50 hours each semester. Four of the participants participated in more than one class because of their juvenile offender status that holds them in the facility until they are 21 years of age

As participant researchers, the researchers never conceptualized their research as "a series of discrete projects--one ending another beginning--but rather that each looks back to and builds upon those that have gone before and acts as a catalyst for those that are still to be undertaken" (Wilson, 2007, p. 189). As thus, the research was designed not only to provide "an intensive, holistic description and analysis" of The Artist Inside to unearth the uniqueness and rich details of the program, but also to improve and generate a deeper understanding of the pedagogy and curriculum of the program (Merriam, 1988, p. 21). The methods of inquiry included participant observation, document analysis, and art elicitation in which young men talked about their art and their artistic process. Additionally, critical conversations with the between two of the course facilitators of the course occurred each week over lunch following the implementation of the program (Herda, 1999). The researchers met for a total of 29 meetings covering a total of 92 hours.

The Program

The Artist Inside is an intentional double entendre--noting work with youth who are incarcerated while simultaneously recognizing that all people have artistic abilities that, if nurtured with time and intention, lead to imagination, visualization and creation. It provides spaces for youth who are incarcerated to problematize, critically evaluate and reconstruct themselves so they can unblock and unlock their capacities while they acquire skills and knowledge to make informed decisions regarding their time in detention and their release.

The program is taught and facilitated by a multidisciplinary team of two women and one man with a variety of visual art backgrounds including a photographer, a multimedia artist, and a videographer--all educators in the community working as a college instructor, physician, and university professor respectively. Youth receive skill acquisition and support in sketching, drawing, art history, painting, design, video, desktop publishing and digital photography. Each course is culminated with a major collective work building upon these skills. Projects have included a mural on the floor of the facility's educational center, a mural of a cityscape, an underwater seascape in one of the shower areas of the facility, and short video documentaries created by and about themselves.

All of the young men who decide to participate in the program must complete a short application for admission. The application utilized to discover what the youth want to learn and guide development of curriculum based on their interests and current skill level. Participants for the program are not selected based on artistic ability but on their expressed interest in the program. The program instructors work to ensure heterogeneity of dorms without regard to gang affiliations so that participations can work on building community across differences. Youth must agree to the contractual agreements for the course that they receive and sign on the first week of class which addresses attendance policies, work ethic toward the activities and each other, such as guidelines about how to treat their own and other's art, and policies for checking out pre-approved materials.

The impact and affect of the program includes the youth's addition of aesthetics to their Spartan living environment, their ability to cooperate and engage in teamwork with each other, and a sense of voice developed overtime with the adults who facilitate the course. Through visual arts as strength based education, youth are able to not only learn about but also engage maxims which provide them with the human capital which they will need for success after their release--connection, community, contribution, concentration, and completion.

Connection and Community

Within an art education program, incarcerated youth have the opportunity to connect with art, each other, and pro-social adults from the community. In these connections, they have the opportunity to engage in action that does not focus on what they can do in regards to engaging people and materials without violence, enticement or condescension but more specifically on meaningful and purposeful interactions that focus on tasks, information and a sense of community. Building community in the classroom is to come together, not to console each other or even support each other (hooks, 2003) but to encourage each other and move toward creating realities that counter other experiences they have had in the way they work with each other, adults and subject matter.

Connection to the Art

During each session of The Artist Inside, the youth participate in a brief lesson study of a particular artist and exposure to the artist community. Discussion around particular arts and artists arise, and students are able to make connections between their own lives and those of the famous artist they are studying. For example, as youth worked on rendering a piece in the same spirit as a famous artist, they discussed the different artists that they used for inspiration. Juan, a 15-year old Hispanic youth incarcerated in the facility, utilized a portion of Vincent Van Gogh's Starry Night (1889). The youth made a comment about how he like the artists' use of color and a discussion ensued about how Van Gogh struggled for much of his life. He was institutionalized several times and painted Starry Night while institutionalized in an insane asylum. Van Gogh died by from a self inflicted gun shot a year after this painting was created. Juan and Sally, a course facilitator, also discussed how he died in poverty since his paintings were not appreciated until long after his death. Juan responded that Van Gogh's life sounded a lot "like his," and, he was surprised that someone whose art, now as famous as Van Gogh, could have been so underappreciated. Juan demonstrates how incarcerated youth who participate in art education make connections to the self and an understanding of the artists' struggle.

Connection to Each Other

In a class intended to present an introduction to mural artists, The Artist Inside presented the work of the Mexican muralist Diego Rivera. The students were interested in the way Rivera used his art as a form of social protest and frequently focused on everyday Mexican society. This lead to a discussion of the mural he painted for Rockefeller Center in 1936 which was destroyed because it was too politically risque and Rivera refused to be censored. During that same course, an ocean view mural the youth painted in a dorm facility was also painted over after the class was done and the students had graduated from the program. When Rafeal, a 16 year old Hispanic male who had contributed to the mural and graduated from the program, saw one of the program facilitators at the correctional facility making plans for the next course, he told her, "Ms., did you know they (the facility) painted over our mural?" The facilitator was unaware that this had occurred, but found after a discussion with administration that the mural had been painted over.

The incident led to the connection of the youths' work being treated with the same lack of reverence (or misunderstanding) as the work of Rivera. The youth in the program saw the incident in connection with the censorship of Rivera. Additionally, more than one of the graduates talked about how "whack" it was that "our" work had been destroyed. The connection to the art as "ours" noted a collectivity to the art, each peer, and the facilitators. This collective sense of identity is important because it facilitates a sense of identification with others and helps them to understand what a community might be that supports each other in pro-social behavior. Rather than hear about community building or attempt to learn steps to participating in community, arts education provides the space for incarcerated youth to become part of a community that engages in pro-social behavior. This notion of community jettisons the presumption that collective identities must be grounded in commonality (Ferguson, 2007). In the mix of participants from heterogeneous dorms and gang affiliations, there has never been a physical or verbal altercation and no participant has ever had to be removed from the class permanently or temporarily, and they consider the work they do together as "ours."

Another example of this collective as community occurred in a period of heightened security in the detention facility due to increased fighting. Jesus and Enrique, both youthful offenders who were attending the art class for the second semester, but known affiliates to rival gangs were told that they could not attend art class together. The facility administration and correctional officers wanted to keep them out of the class because they assumed they would continue their altercation. They spoke with the facilitators and explained that they feared for the safety of the other students and the facilitators. However, the facilitators asked that they be allowed to attend and during that time and the other ten weeks of the course there was not a hint of an incident between the two, and they even worked together on two different projects.

Arts education, as a strength-based program, does not ignore the difficulty of strong emotion such as anger, frustration, anxiety and/or sadness. Rather it invites it in as expression of them, and youth do not need outbursts to externalize those feelings that are causing them so much pain; they don't need to vent their anger, for example, on anyone else in order to be relieved because they are channeling into artistic expression (Fowler, 1994). Community building frequently exists as an essential component to delivering art corrections with youth in correctional facilities. The sense of community emanates around the commonality of art, and it moves across differences of affiliation of the youth to demonstrate how they can work in the same space. Consistently, youth who participate in The Artist Inside show a marked improvement in the self-assessment pre-test and post-test items of attitude and ability to work in a team.


Incarcerated youth in a detention facility live in a system so embroiled with so many different people attempting to "care for" and "care about" them, any program like The Artist Inside runs the risk of simply becoming another place for them to be controlled, reformed and disciplined (Duguid, 2000). Arts education as a strength-based requires an assumption that all people--youth and facilitators--possess "a wide range of talents, abilities, capacities, skills, resources, and aspirations" (p. 352). This assumption requires that structures must be created to "care with" the youth in the program in a way that relationships to each student, the art and each other would be understood as interdependent or reciprocal. This ethic of reciprocity requires that the young men and the instructors depend on each other for the program, and the essence of relationship is to understand and practice that interdependency. This interdependency emanates from the interaction and exchange between student and facilitator which highlight the student's and the facilitator's competency (Clark, 1999).

Strengths-based art education requires that the facilitators must assume responsibility for the intensive day-to-day responsibility for students' learning by providing a program that recognizes most interactions are not crisis oriented and the necessity to control or take charge are not common or constant with adjudicated youth in detention facilities (Clark, 1997, 2001; Weick, Rapp, Sullivan, & Kisthardt, 1989; Saleebey, 2002). This practice can frequently run counter to some of the other values that drive a juvenile detention facility. During one Artist Inside class, one of the correction officers who usually did not work with the art program appeared disconcerted that the class had known "enemies" within the same physical space of the classroom, and he immediately began assigning specific seating to the youth to ensure there would be no close physical proximity of different gang affiliations. After the corrections officer left the room, Angel, a 14 year old Hispanic male stated, "That's not right, we always sit where we want to, we have been together for months and we never have any problems in here." Susan, one of the White female facilitators, also distressed by the abrupt interruption of the officer, agreed that she would speak with the Superintendent, and apologized for not intervening immediately. It is important to note that this was the only occurrence of this type since the program's inception, and most correctional officers have been overwhelmingly supportive and note the changes they have observed of the youth who participate. However, facilitators of art education programs can suffer because the students experience them like they experience everybody else--adults who refuse to listen and impose "answers" without consensus (Bullocks, Arend, & Mills, 1983; Clark, 1999; Duguid, 2000) or they can create a program where the ethic of reciprocity recognizes that the program relies on the contribution and mutual respect of both the youth and the facilitators.

Constructing Mutual Contributions

Practitioners from operate in a strengths-based perspective must believe that incarcerated youth have strengths and when you have expectations of abilities and strengths and provide them with resources and spaces to utilize those strengths. Additionally, the expectations must be made explicit because the explicitedness will influence adjudicated youth's behavior. The Artist Inside relies on a mutual contract agreement with the youth situated in an understanding that both youth and facilitators contribute to the program. The contract states what the youth can expect from the facilitators as people who work with them (respect, attendance, preparation, provisions of art supplies, respect, snacks) and what the youth agree to as people who work with the facilitators. Youth are treated under the same principles of fairness and responsibility that the facilitators demand for themselves through this contract agreement (Harr, 1999). The contract no longer situates the facilitators as the all-knowing adults contributing the art program to youth but instead working with them in agreement about how each will show up, literally and figuratively.

Community Contribution

Contributions of the youth go far beyond the confines of the four walls of the classroom. Their art acts as a bridge between themselves and the outside world. The art can be a means for the incarcerated youth to be validated by society and potentially providing them with the recognition they may seek. When incarcerated youth are given the space and support to communicate, to be validated through their art, they and others can authenticate the knowledge they, the artists, hold. Works of art completed in the program are displayed both inside and outside of the facility. The impact and affect of the program includes the youth's addition of aesthetics to their Spartan living environment--they have art on display in each of the dorms at the detention center, in the education center, and the medical facility.

Based on the success of The Artist Inside Program, the facility social workers conducted an "art week" during a spring break from school for all of the youth in the correctional facility to add additional youth produced art throughout the facility. Another piece completed by the youth in The Artist Inside was loaned to a local legal aid service office and they have offered to commission a piece for their office. The people who worked at the office marveled at the artistic ability and vision of the youth, challenging the pervasive deficit notion that frequently shadows incarcerated youth (Ayers, 19988; Lesko, 2001; Oesterreich, 2007).

After viewing self-representative photos of the youth at a recent Artist Inside gallery opening on a local university campus, a patron wrote,
 Thank you. You have shared your selves in your work with a vision
 that is beyond your years and location and moved my soul--we have
 connected your lens and my soul and the neither of us will ever be
 the same.

The youths' artistic creations give out answers to questions about who they are and how they see the world and situates them as subject in a world where they are most frequently treated as an object. The young men are situated as critical contributors in a world that often "doesn't listen, doesn't look, and certainly doesn't care" about who they are and what they have to contribute (Chicago and Schapiro, 2003, p. 40). It is through the art that youth can cooperatively imagine and think through and influence others to think of alternative ways of their being (Fisher, 2001).

Concentration and Completion

A significant proportion of youth in the juvenile justice system have education-related disabilities. Analysis of risk factors of youth in correctional facilities frequently focus on youths' difficulty staying focused on tasks, avoiding things that take a lot of mental effort for a long period of time, and finishing schoolwork, tasks, or assignments in the workplace. Many youth in correctional facilities have done poorly in school prior to their arrest and detention and continue this pattern in the facility (Burrell & Warboys, 2000; Coalition for Juvenile Justice, 2001; U.S. Department of Education, 1998; Venable, 2005).

However, unlike their histories that precede them and the deficiencies in which researchers and practitioners frequently situate them, The Artist Inside as strength-based practice provides a space for incarcerated youth to demonstrate through their action that they can provide strong counterstories to an inability to concentrate on and complete tasks (Yasso, 2005). The class ranges from two to three hours each week, and the youth stay focused throughout the course bar an occasional bathroom break and a 15-20 minute snack break. This concentration occurs as they engage with each other and their art to escape to a place that is about imagination and seeing the world with a new perspective, representing the self, and taking ideas into action (Greene, 2000, p. 294).

The action that youth in The Artist Inside engage is not limited to concentration--it extends to completion of tasks that are frequently difficult to accomplish. Creating art as an incarcerated youth requires overcoming many barriers. An artists journey is never straightforward and the youth will encounter many obstacles to the practice of art making. The very nature of a correctional facility shapes and limits the youth's subject matter where culturally valued art such as low-rider art, graffiti, tattoos and gang affliated-related images are considered taboo. They have limited access to space, views, art materials, and patrons. They are not free to choose when, where, and what to create and are severely limited by the routine and regulations of the facility. As part of The Artist Inside program, each youth is given a sketchbook and allowed to check out facility approved art materials from the program, but the correctional officers have on occasion confiscated these items. As mentioned previously in the case of the aquarium mural around the showers, their art can be destroyed at the will of the facility.

These daunting institutional obstacles do not deter youth from complete participation. During the three years of the program, only one youth has opted not to complete the course up until their release or graduation. Eduardo, a 17 year old Hispanic male opted out because he had "business" to take care of and his decision to stop attending occurred the week before his release date. Additionally, each week the youth are given an assignment to complete in their sketchbook in and only twice has a youth not completed the assignment. When they did not complete the homework assignment it was because they thought it was "whack," and they opted to do a drawing of their own choosing. The youth, functioning in connection and community, utilized their agency in this instance to do what was useful for them, and through that agency taught the facilitators to provide multiple choices for assignments so that youth have choices about how to enter the art.

Completion of art in the program is not only difficult in the physicality of the correctional facility, but also in the process of the creation of art. Although all the facilitators of the program value the traditional forms of "prison art," they challenge the youth to dig deeper into the world of art, images, materials, and their imagination. This type of challenge creates a classroom where

... no comparable "comforts" exist. There is no single correct answer to an artistic problem; there are many. There is no procedure to tell the student with certainty that his or her solution is correct. There is no algorithm that one can employ to solve an artistic problem; one must depend upon that most exquisite of human capacities--judgment. The exercise of judgment in the marking of artistic images or in their appreciation depends upon the ability to cope with ambiguity, to experience nuance, and to weigh the tradeoffs among alternative courses of action. These skills not only represent the mind operating in its finest hour but are precisely the skills that characterize our most complex adult life tasks. (Oddleifso, 1996)

The incarcerated youth are exposed to a variety of mediums and techniques--some that they are familiar with and others that are entirely new to them. Each class is designed around a particular artistic medium (i.e. charcoal, pencil, design markers, pastels, photography, digital video) or technique (i.e. shading, blending, perspective, still life, portraiture) and then students work on their own piece and creation in that area. Through this process, instruction is based on application and the necessity to utilize their judgment to make decisions that reflect on their paper, their portrait, and/or their video screen. Even with the assistance of the facilitators the art emanates from their experience, their judgment, and their persistence.

They experience ease of effort with some mediums and frustration with others, and in this engagement with emotions they demonstrate a capacity to live a counter story of avoiding things that take a lot of mental effort for a long period of time and resonate in their ability to complete assignments. Through art education, youth engage their imagination, observation, and creative problem-solving skills at the same time they attempt every medium introduced and focus on "doing" art for longer periods than they have been able to focus in traditional schooling. Enrico, who had excelled at digital photography, struggled with understanding how to draw using concepts of perspective and with 3-dimensional drawing. When the assignment involved drawing a still life of a rose he explained that he could draw roses from paper and was good at those, but this was difficult and he wanted to have a picture of a rose not the real thing. Jose, the Mexican American male facilitator, encouraged him to try and reminded him that the importance was to stretch himself as an artist. As he persevered in this challenging task, by the end of the class he said he was proud of his new abilities in spite of his initial protest.

Concentration and completion occur in arts education when youth's abilities are highlighted, and they are pushed for additional action until eventually they do not need the push and pursue additional action themselves. An example of this occurred when Martin, a 17 year old Mexican American male started a piece the week before and took more time than his other classmates complained the entire class about how difficult his piece was and how he wished he had picked a different one that he perceived was easier. However, through the struggle, he continued to work and when the time came for snacks, he continued to work; when class was over, he said he was done but he continued to suggest he was not pleased with the outcome. The following week, when the curriculum shifted to another project, and the class was informed that their pieces where to be placed on display in the medical facility he asked if he could revisit his piece from the previous week to finish it because he did not think it was done. He went to his portfolio, retrieved the piece, and continued working until he was satisfied.


Juvenile facilities' commitment to the education of incarcerated youth in an effort to provide them with opportunities for growth and change is well-documented. Lessons learned from decades of juvenile justice research demonstrates that there is no particular philosophical approach to education that contains all the answers to how to affect growth and change through education (Roush, 1996); however, a strength-based approach creates the space for incarcerated youth to become accountable as they participated in the action of growing and changing so that they raise their sense of their ability to be different than who they currently are (Clark, 1999). The difficulty for juvenile courts is frequently making the connection between a strengths-based theory and practice for incarcerated youth. Visual art education offers one such connection. Though the circumstances and location of the juvenile facility art classroom are far from ideal, it is apparent that art programs as strength-based education with youth in juvenile correctional facilities offer multiple benefits. As education programs in juvenile facilities continue to be driven by the larger constraints of educational mandates narrowing what is possible in subject offerings, creative programs such as The Artist Inside provide spaces for academic enrichment. However, they also offer spaces in juvenile facilities to do more than skill acquisition if they are structured with attention to the needs of the participants.

Specifically, The Artist Inside demonstrates how incarcerated youth allows the participants to "see" themselves actively engage in the 5 C's--connection, community, contribution, concentration, and completion with their art, pro-social adults, and other youth. They contribute to their immediate environment and the larger community; and rewrite their ability to concentrate and complete difficult and daunting tasks. While there is little evidence at this point in time that art education with incarcerated youth in correctional facilities guarantees a dramatic decrease in recidivism or makes an immediate change in their life, it can create the spaces for them to grow and change and see new possibilities in who they are and the strengths they already possess (Williams, 2003). Perhaps this type of strengths based education will continue to prove especially evocative for young offenders who have been resistant to conventional academic and cognitive approaches. Arts education as strengths based practice addresses connection, contribution, concentration and completion as action toward the development of social and personal responsibility.


Ayers, W. (1998). A kind and just parent. Boston: Beacon Press.

Bendtro, L., & Ness, A. (1995). Fixing flaws or building strengths? Reclaiming Children and Youth, 4(2), 2-7.

Bullock, T. Arends, R. I., and Mills, F. (1983). Implementing educational services in a detention facility. Juvenile and Family Court Judges 34 (?), 21-29.

Burrell, S. & Warboys, L. (2000). Special education and the juvenile justice system. (NCJ 179359). Washington D. C.: Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention.

Clark, M. D. (2001). Influencing positive behavior change: Increasing the therapeutic approach of juvenile courts. Federal Probation Quarterly, 65(1), 18-27.

Clark, M. D. (1999). The ABCs of increasing motivation with juvenile offenders. Juvenile and Family Court Judges, 50 (1), 33-41.

Clark, M.D. (1997). Strengths based practice: The new paradigm. Corrections Today 59 (2), 110-112.

Coalition for Juvenile Justice. (2001). Abandonment in the back row: Newlessons in education, delinquency, and prevention. Washington D.C.: Author.

Conrad, D., & Hedin, D. (1982). The impact of experimental education on adolescent development. Child and Youth Services, 4, 57-76.

Duguid, S. R. (2000). Can prisons work? The prisoner as object and subject in modern correction. Toronto: University of Toronto Press.

Ferguson, M. L. (2007). Sharing without knowing: Collective identity in feminist and democratic theory. Hypatia, 22(4), 30-45.

Fisher, B. M. (2001). No angel in the classroom. Lanham, MD: Rowman and Littlefield Publishers.

Fowler, C. B. (1994). Strong arts, strong schools. Educational Leadership 52, 4-9.

Frolander-Ulf, M. & Yates, M. (2001). Teaching in prison. Monthly Review, July/Aug.l 14-127.

Gottfredson, G. D., Gottfredson, D. C., Czeh, E. R., Cantor, D., Crosse, S. B., & Hantman, I. (2004). Toward safe and orderly schools: The national study of delinquency prevention in schools. (NCJ Publication No.205005). Washington, D. C.: U.S. Department of Justice.

Harr, D. 1999. A plea from behind bars: Take a chance on education. Social Policy, 30 (1), 50-59.

hooks, bell. 2003. Teaching community. A pedagogy of hope. New York: Routledge.

Johnson, R. (1999). Destiny's child: Recognizing the correlation between urban education and juvenile delinquency. Journal of Law and Education, 28(2), 313-317.

Kornfeld, P. (1997). Cellblock visions: Prison art in America. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.

Lesko, N. (2001). Act your age: A cultural construction of adolescence. New York: Routledge

Oddleifson, E. (1996). The necessary role of the arts in education and society: Finding the creative power within us to control our lives and shape our destinies. Hingham, MA: Center for the Arts in the Basic Curriculum.

Oesterreich, H. A. (2007). From 'crisis' to 'activist': The everyday freedom legacy of Black feminisms. Race, Ethnicity, and Education 10(1), 1-20.

Ohler, J. (2000). Art becomes the fourth R. Educational Leadership, 48(2), 52-56.

Riches, C. (1994). The hidden therapy of a prison art education programme. In M.

Liebmann (Ed.), Art therapy with offenders (pp.77-101). London: Jessica Kingsley Publishers.

Roush, D. W. (1996). Social skills training in juvenile detention: A rationale. Juvenile and Family Court Judges 47, 1-20.

Saleebey, D. (Ed.). (2002). The strengths perspective in social work practice. New York: Longman Press.

U.S. Department of Education. (1998). To assure the free appropriate public education of all children with disabilities: Twentieth annual report to Congress on the implementation of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Education.

Venable, B. B. (2005). At-risk and in-need: Reaching juvenile offenders through art. Art Education 58(4), 48-53.

Weick, A., Rapp, C., Sullivan, W. P., & Kisthardt, W. (1989). A strengths perspective for social work practice. Social Work, 34 (4), 350-354.

Williams, R. M. C. (2003). Teaching the arts behind bars. Boston: Northeastern University Press.

Wilson, A. (2007). "I go to get away from the cockroaches:" Educentricity and the politics of education in prisons. The Journal of Correctional Education 58(2), 185-205.

Wolford, B., Purnell, B., & Brooks, C. C. (2000). Educating youth in the juvenile justice system.

Richmond, KY: National Juvenile Detention Association.

Yasso, T. (2005). Critical race counterstories along the Chicana/Chicano educational pipeline. New York: Routledge.

Billington, B. (2002) Making Good--a special place for art in prison education. Prison Service Journal, 141, 41-46.

Chicago, J. & Schapiro, M. (2003). Judy Chicago. Washington DC: National Museum of Women in the Arts.

Clements, P. (2004). The rehabilitative role of arts education in prison: Accommodation or enlightenment? The International Journal of Arts and Design Education. 23, 169-178.

Greene, M. (2000). Releasing the imagination: Essays on education, the arts and social change. San Francisco, California: Jossey-Bass Inc.

Harrington, C, L. (1997). Time to piddle: death row incarceration, craftwork, and the meaning of time. (Art and the Catharsis). Journal of Arts Management, Law and Society. 27, 51-71.

Herda, E. A. (1999). Research conversations and narrative: A critical hermeneutic orientation in participatory inquiry. Santa Barbara, CA: Praeger.

Peaker, A. & Vincent, (1991). Arts in prisons: A sense of achievement. Loughborough University: Centre for Research in Social Policy.

HEATHER A. OESTERREICH is an Assistant Professor at New Mexico State University in Curriculum and Instruction and a teacher in The Artist Inside. She is a committed teacher educator challenging the standards of how marginalized children and youth are served in educational institutions.

SARA MCNIE FLORES received her Masters Degree in Teaching with an emphasis in prison(er) education and Women's Studies. She is a College Instructor at New Mexico State University and the Director of The Artist Inside Program.
COPYRIGHT 2009 Correctional Educational Association
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 2009 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

Article Details
Printer friendly Cite/link Email Feedback
Author:Oesterreich, Heather A.; Flores, Sara McNie
Publication:Journal of Correctional Education
Article Type:Report
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Jun 1, 2009
Previous Article:Reading achievement of incarcerated youth in three regions.
Next Article:Professional development: a capacity-building model for juvenile correctional education systems.

Related Articles
Educating juvenile offenders: teaching techniques determine students' success or failure.
Civil Rights Issues in Juvenile Detention and Correctional Systems.
Youth Education in the Juvenile Justice System.
Working collaboratively: addressing the needs of federally sentenced juvenile offenders.
Juvenile correctional education standards approved.
Juvenile justice education, No Child Left Behind, and the National Collaboration Project.
Youths who are transferred to the adult criminal system are approximately 34 percent more likely than youths retained in the juvenile court system to...
Writing for change: engaging juveniles through alternative literacy education.
Juvenile delinquency and special education laws: policy implementation issues and directions for future research.
Professional development: a capacity-building model for juvenile correctional education systems.

Terms of use | Privacy policy | Copyright © 2020 Farlex, Inc. | Feedback | For webmasters