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The Rehabilitation Through The Arts (RTA) program was founded in 1996 at Sing Singmarker Maximum Security Correctional Facility in Ossining, New York. It is a registered tax-exempt non-profit organization that is not funded by any state or federal program. The program was created to help fill the gap left after all publicly funded higher education and enrichment programs were withdrawn from the New Yorkmarker State Prisons system.

Background

Volunteer Katherine Vockins, working in collaboration with the prison administration, community volunteers/theater professionals and the prisoner population, developed RTA to create a safe space in which to support the growth and transformation of prisoners through the application of theater arts. This program and others have shown that the use of dramatic techniques leads to significant improvements in the cognitive behavior of the program's participants inside prison and a reduction in recidivism once paroled.

RTA is a program of Prison Communities International Inc. (PCI). PCI is a non-profit organization dedicated to criminal justice issues. PCI believes in the inherent value of every human being, including criminal offenders, and recognizes the need for dialogue among all stakeholders about making changes in our criminal justice system, from a punitive to a rehabilitative stance.

Mission

RTA's goal is to use theater arts to offer prisoners a safe and supportive rehabilitation structure in which to build skills, to develop leadership, community, and respect for self and for others, and to recognize a sense of achievement. In the often brutalizing and harsh prison environment, these are precious and rare attributes.

The Program

RTA runs year round. Prisoners meet with RTA staff, volunteers and guest artists twice a week in 2-hour workshops and classes that teach writing, reading, public speaking, improvisation, acting, directing, stage management, set design and more. In the course of their study , prisoners learn to communicate a compelling story fully and clearly through the process of creative writing, whether it be in developing a play, building personal narrative in journal writing, or composing a poem. Perhaps more importantly, the participants discover that their own histories, experiences, imaginations and insights are dramatic, that the work they put in is valuable, and that their stories are worth telling and hearing. Out of the workshops emerge original plays, monologues and performance pieces that are performed twice each year for the entire prison population and invited community guests.

Theatrical Productions

The following plays were produced as a part of the Rehabilitation Through The Arts theatre workshop program at Sing Singmarker Correctional Facility, Ossining, NY:

1.Stories from the Inside Out

2.The N_____ Trial

3.Breakin' the Mummy's Code

4.Jitney

5.Fine Print

6.12 Angry Men

7.Stratford's Decision

8.Reality in Motion

9.SLAM

10.Voices From Within

11.A Few Good Men

12.One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest

13.The Sacrifice

14.An Evening of Theatre, Four Original One-Act Plays

15.When We're Home

16.Reality in Motion

Productions Outside of Sing Singmarker Prison:

1.Back House Productions

2.The "Nigger" Trial

3.Voices From the Inside

Benefits and Events

RTA held its first ever New York City Benefit Performance From Sing Sing to Broadwaymarker – An Evening Without Walls on Monday, June 5, 2006, at Playwrights Horizons Theatre, 416 West 42nd Street, with special guest performance by Charles Dutton.

In the fall of 2008, RTA held its second New York City benefit. Featuring performance by graduates of RTA, "RTA on the River" took place on October 29, 2008 at Chelsea Piers in New York City.

Board Members

The acting board members of RTA are: Katherine Vockins; Suzanne Kessler; William Hanauer; Neal Keller; Hans Hallundbaek; Riki Gold Theatre; Gregory Frederick; Jens Schott Knudsen; Nizan Geslevich and Raji Mangat.

Funding

RTA, a privately funded program, was made possible through support from such generous donors as The Kalliopeia Foundation, The Community Foundation, The Sunshine Lady Foundation , The Puffin Foundation, and Robert E. and Judith O. Rubin Foundation, as well as numerous church groups and individual supporters.

The Rehabilitation Through The Arts, a program of Prison Communities International

References

  1. New York Times: For Inmates, a Stage Paved With Hope May 27, 2007
  2. Rehabilitation Through the Arts homepage
  3. NPR: Singing (and Acting) at Sing Sing May 21, 2005
  4. New York Times: "Two Once-Angry Men Revisit a Prison Triump" Nov. 13, 2004.
  5. New York Times: "Behind Walls of Sing Sing; Inmates Find Freedom Onstage" Dec. 1, 2002.
  6. RTA on the River October 29, 2008


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