“This program has been a godsend for me. It has been the ONLY place here where I'm accepted as I am--no judgements and no limit to creativity. It's the only place I feel like I wouldn't want to be anywhere else that moment.”
Bridging Boundaries Arts Intervention Program™
Incarceration not only affects the individual sent to prison, but families and loved ones as well. Everyone ‘does the time’. Bridging Boundaries helps incarcerated individuals and their families reconnect, reenergize, and regain their communication skills through the arts. In tandem with social service professionals, teaching artists lead participants in individual and collaborative storytelling through movement and dance, autobiographical narratives, visual arts, and song-making.
Since 2005, JDPP has offered multi-arts residencies to women at York Correctional Institution in Niantic, Connecticut, and since 2016, men at Cybulski CI Reintegration Center in Enfield, CT. In addition, Bridging Boundaries reaches out to Greater Hartford youth who have parents or loved ones in prison, those returning to the community from prison and young men in juvenile detention centers in Hartford and Bridgeport. Thousands of lives have been shaped by this work.
Youth with Incarcerated Parents In-School Programs: Standing Strong Together
The Bridging Boundaries in-school residency addresses the unique issues faced by children with a parent in prison. The program creates a safe space with others who share the “secret” of having an incarcerated loved one. Children learn to trust, to create, to find their voices and to advocate for their future. This program, a collaboration with Hartford Public Schools social workers, culminates in an informal sharing for outside guests. As one child exclaims,
“You guys made me realize that it's okay to go through things and try to overcome your "thorns".”
York Performance Residency: Finding Voice
The originating program for JDPP’s prison outreach, this year-long program invites 25 to 30 women at York CI to collaborate in creating a unique theme-based performance piece from autobiographical writing, songwriting, and dance. They learn how to work as a community, providing a safe space to delve deeply into their personal and imaginative resources. The performances that they develop with JDPP teaching artists present an honest, authentic, and deeply moving reflection on their lives and perceptions of the world inside and out. Working in collaboration with York’s social workers and administration, the performances are shared with approximately York residents, outside guests and families of the performers.
“There is no other program that allows us to share our emotions openly and honestly. There also is no other program that gives us an ability to be creative as artists and share that art and there is no program that allows us to share with our families that product and visit.”
York C.I. Moms & Kids and Cybulski C.I. Dads & Kids
Prison presents what feels like an impregnable separation between parents and loved ones and their children. JDPP’s seminal outreaches to families affected by incarceration helps to bridge this gap and provide more normal art-filled settings for prison visits to take place. Through movement, visual art and spoken word, program participants prepare weekly for 3 family visits per year. They deeply consider who they are as women and men and how they can best be active parents in their children’s lives. The culminating visits include a shared meal and extended hours of arts activities enjoyed together. They joyfully nurture and nourish family bonds. Successful family bonding has been proven to decrease the likelihood of recidivism after release.
“I stay out of trouble just for this program. I was classified to Seg 4 times & now I have been ticket free for over 2 years.” A mom’s comment
“You’ve been able to come into this dark place and give us a little light. Programs like this help; you see how different it can be - you can be...This program is like a unicorn.” a Dad's comment
Stepping Out takes those who have participated in JDPP Residencies in prison or in New Beginnings to the next level, offering professional mentorships with the JDPP Ensemble that include paid training and participation in prison-related Ensemble performances. This professional experience expands the range and authenticity of the work as the performers represent their own words as well as those who remain in prison. The performances help to change perceptions of who is in prison and why they are there. Discussions about carceral realities and issues follow all performances.
“Working with JDPP has strengthened my confidence and self-esteem and has given me the opportunity to develop into a performer. I am able to continue working through the guilt and shame that accompanies being convicted of a felony by receiving and lending support to others while participating in meaningful work.”
New Beginnings is a unique 10-week arts engagement with women and men who have returned to the community from Community Partners and Human Rights Studies students in at Trinity College. Weekly sharings of stories, dance and art work culminate in a small performance for the community. The special bond created among the community members and students leads to enormous artistic and personal growth.
“I was nervous at first. But, the group helped me open up and tell my story. You all taught me how to love myself and not let life knock me down.”
I A.M. (Imagination, Art and Me)
JDPP’s most recent arts program at York C.I., I A.M. focuses on 18- to 25-year-old women who are in a special WORTH unit (Women Overcoming Recidivism through Hard Work) to further develop and reduce the chance that they will return to prison after release. The women are encouraged to express themselves through the arts and use them as vehicles for self-knowledge and communication. Like other JDPP programs, seven-week modules culminate in informal, interactive performances with families, loved ones, and other prison staff as the women gain increasing self-confidence and can share their growth outside their own circle with family and loved ones and declare who and what ‘I am’.
“I have learned a lot about myself, where my strengths are but also where I need improvement. I am looking forward to the next chapter and where that journey will take me. :)”
S.L.A.M. Sharing Lives/Art Matters
Under the auspices of Community Partners in Action, JDPP’s S.L.A.M. program reaches out to young men at Hartford and Bridgeport Juvenile Detention Centers in 7-week workshops, using the arts as avenues of expression for who we are, where we are from and how we can create and build a vision for our lives together as a creative community. Through movement, writing, and visual arts, participants delve into new ways of communicating that are expanding, useful and fun. The workshops focus on building a sense of self, working as a community, trust, centering, and responsibility to self and others. Each session culminates in a small informal sharing of ideas, art and experiences that takes shape in the previous weeks’ explorations.
“It made me happy and my mood better and I always look forward to it. So I got happiness out of SLAM.”
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JDPP, Inc. is a 501c(3) organization.