“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™
Bridging Boundaries helps incarcerated individuals and their families reconnect, reenergize, and regain communication skills through the arts. In tandem with social service professionals, teaching artists lead participants in individual and collaborative storytelling through dance and movement, autobiographical narratives, visual arts, and song-making.
Since 2005, JDPP has offered dance-based multi-arts residencies to women at York Correctional Institution in Niantic, Connecticut, and beginning in 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
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,
“If it wasn’t for you guys, I wouldn’t be the kid I am today.”
York Performance Residency
In a year-long process, 25 to 30 women at York CI create a unique performance piece from autobiographical writing, song-writing, and dance. They learn how to work as a collaborative community, providing a safe space to delve deeply into their personal and imaginative resources. The performance that they develop with JDPP teaching artists is honest, sometimes wrenching, but ultimately hopeful. Working in collaboration with York’s social workers and administration, the performances are shared with approximately 400 York residents, outside guests and families of the performers. This program was the seedbed for all of JDPP’s Bridging Boundaries programs.
“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.”
Dads & Kids at the Cybulski Reintegration Center
This program opens communication and strengthens family bonds for fathers who will soon be be released from the Cybulksi Reintegration Center, their children, and the children’s caregivers. Through movement, visual art and spoken word, participants push past boundaries, take healthy creative risks, and enhance family relations – all of which improve their probability of success upon release. This program is a collaboration with the Department of Correction. In the words of one of the dads,
“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. I can see the look in my wife’s eyes- that I’ve changed. I wanna’ keep that, starting fresh, [take the] benefit from this group out there. This program is like a unicorn.”
York Moms & Kids
The York Moms & Kids program builds relationships among incarcerated moms, their children, and caregivers. The program includes a series of planning sessions with York moms and JDPP teaching artists that culminate in two 2-hour Saturday arts engagements: a holiday visit in the late fall and a Mother’s Day visit in the spring. The capstone visit is In July when there is a weekend visit in the prison school which is transformed into various arts activity stations planned by the moms with JDPP staff. Family photos, shared lunches, a talent show, and a community mural are some of the highlights of this special 2-day event. Families can stay at Incarnation Center, in nearby Ivoryton, CT where hiking trails, a petting zoo and delicious food abounds. As one mom describes,
“I never thought I would be a good mother because of my past behaviors, however because of this program my love for my daughter has grown.”
This program is a collaboration with the Department of Correction.
After participating in York Residencies or New Beginnings, women may be selected to participate in a professional mentorship that includes paid training and participation in JDPP performances. Their experience and growing talents deepen the authenticity of the work, and they help to change perceptions concerning issues of incarceration both on stage and in post-performance talk backs.
“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 from Community Partners in Action’s Resettlement program and students in a Human Rights seminar at Trinity College. The workshop culminates in a small performance for the community. The special bond created among the women and students leads to enormous artistic and personal growth. As one of the women describes,
“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.”
Making Me Whole: Prison, Art and Healing
In 2016, JDPP received a notable national grant from The Mellon Foundation and Mid-America Arts Alliance for Connecticut Public Television to partner with JDPP and create a 30-minute documentary featuring this groundbreaking work as a national demonstration project. In a rare opportunity, “Making Me Whole; Prison, Art, and Healing” takes the viewer inside the prison walls to hear and see firsthand from women and men about the influence Bridging Boundaries has had on them. The footage also sheds light on the struggles that children with incarcerated parents face, and how JDPP in partnership with social workers, helps them navigate their way using the arts to deal with the most often tightly held secret. The film features JDPP’s community supporters articulating the value and significance of these programs, and the powerful transformations that come from the continued support to those returning to our communities.
You can watch the trailer below.
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JDPP, Inc. is a 501c(3) organization.