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Inmate outreach program celebrates 10th 'journey home'


February 20, 2012

ASU Gammage arts residency program for prisoners turns 10

Twenty-five women, ages 23 to 50, who live behind bars in Phoenix's Estrella Jail, will participate in a public performance on March 4, as part of ASU Gammage's Journey Home: an Arts Experience for Incarcerated Women.

Now in its 10th year, the arts residency program is designed to enable incarcerated women to discover a personal sense of constructive identity through movement, visual arts, creative writing and storytelling. For 10 years, ASU Gammage has partnered with Life Paradigms, Inc., a Phoenix-based nonprofit organization to bring Journey Home to nearly 300 inmates.

For six weeks leading up to the performance, the inmates meet weekly to train and rehearse with the goal of building personal skills and self-esteem, and learning how to avert destructive behavior through the arts. The idea behind the process is that the incarcerated women then begin to see themselves as productive, creative people. This year’s theme is The Evolution of Self: There is Value in the Valley. The theme will explore how a shift in perception can influence behavior.

“Journey Home allows these women to develop creative tools that can help them make positive choices, and encourages them to break the negative patterns that lead to incarceration," said Colleen Jennings-Roggensack, executive director of ASU Gammage. "We are the only performing arts venue in the country doing work like this within the prison system. It goes back to our mission of connecting communities."

“We have seen the recidivism rate for the women who participate in this program significantly decrease," said Ruth Acuna, an officer from Estrella Jail. "The women learn valuable lessons on how to make positive choices and they have a better understanding of their self-worth once they complete the program.”

The program originated from dancer/choreographer Pat Graney’s national program “Keeping the Faith” prison project. For the past 10 years, ASU Gammage has sustained the event locally through Life Paradigms, Inc.

The media is invited to witness the women’s final performance, as well as observe some of the six-week workshops. RSVP to Dana McGuinness to guarantee a spot no later than Feb. 27 at 480-965-1884 or dana.mcguinness@asu.edu.