Prison Arts Programs

Creating Behind the Razor Wire: An Overview of Arts in Corrections in the United States

By Krista Brune 

In the years since California first institutionalized its Arts-in-Corrections program with a line item in the state budget and staff positions within the Department of Corrections, various studies have investigated the value of arts programs for incarcerated populations. The often-cited 1983 Brewster Report, written by California State University San Jose sociology professor Lawrence Brewster, reviewed four institutions, showing that Arts-in-Corrections produced $228,522 in measurable benefits as compared with a cost to the department of $135,885. Among inmates who participated in the arts programs, Brewster found a 75 to 81 percent reduction of incident rates. The validity of this report has been questioned, yet it is one of the few quantitative reports supporting the practice of the arts in correctional facilities.

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