Project Slam: Rehabilitation through Theatre at Sing Sing Correctional Facility

By Lorraine Moller.

Published by The Arts Collection

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Article: Print $US10.00
Article: Electronic $US5.00

The purpose of the study was to examine the
impact of the prison theatre program, Rehabilitation
through the Arts (RTA) on the attitudes and behavior of
participants. A total of 65 prisoners participated. Three
treatment groups, a total of 36 participants including
Beginners, Intermediates and Advanced theatre group
members, were matched with 29 prisoners with no experience
in the theatre program. All participants completed
personality measures on anger and coping at two intervals
before and after the stage production of the play, Slam.
Institutional records on pre-and post-production
disciplinary infractions, program participation and
reclassification upgrades were examined as a measure of the
behavioral component. Findings revealed that behavioral
differences between the Beginner RTA group and the Controls
were not significant; however, in a three-group comparison,
when the RTA Advanced and Intermediate groups were combined
into the experienced group and compared with the Control
group, the differences were more dramatic, suggesting that
the RTA group had significantly fewer disciplinary
infractions, as well as less time locked in their cells. An
unexpected finding revealed that significant attitudinal
changes over the duration of the study were less associated
with the individual groups, per se, than with behavior of
the individual. The relationship between personality,
specifically anger levels and infractions may have an
important behavioral consequence relating to the impact of
the program. Experienced RTA members reported a higher
level of intensity of angry feelings than either the
Beginners or the Controls on state and trait anger
measures. Despite the elevated anger reported, the
experienced RTAs committed very few infractions. It is
possible that despite the higher levels of anger, RTA
participants may be using theatre as a legitimate outlet to
manage angry feelings.

Keywords: Prisoner Rehabilitation, Prison Theatre, Infractions, Behavioral Change, Sing Sing Correctional Facility, Anger, Coping

International Journal of the Arts in Society, Volume 5, Issue 5, pp.9-30. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 743.890KB).

Dr. Lorraine Moller

Professor, Communication and Theatre Arts, John Jay College of Criminal Justice, New York, New York, USA

Dr. Lorraine Moller teaches acting, speech, sociodrama and theatre production for the Speech, Communication and Theatre Arts Department at John Jay College. Moller’s unique directorial experience includes working with prisoners at Sing Sing Correctional Facilities for men and Bayview Correctional Facility for women. At Sing Sing, she directed and co-directed several plays for and by the prisoners through Rehabilitation through the Arts (RTA) including Reality in Motion. One Flew over the Cuckoo’s Nest, Voices Within, and the only stage adaptation of the film, Slam. She was the acting coach for Sing Sing Comes to Broadway, a production at Playwright’s Horizon performed exclusively by ex-prisoners from the Sing Sing program. Moller is the founder and Program Director of Theatre Workshop at Bayview Correctional Facility where she recently directed the inmates in a production which was granted an award from the American College Theatre Festival. Most recently, drawing on a five-year career in film production as an associate producer, Dr. Moller set up an initiative with Manhattan Neighborhood Network (MNN) to offer a television production internship as part of the departmental curriculum. She was the Executive Producer for 15 documentary shorts which were broadcast on MNN. She has completed two documentary projects on prison visitation programs entitled Family Ties and The Visit. Moller has served as a facilitator for the Anti-Violence Project, an alternative to violence program at Sing Sing and Taconic Correctional Facility. She has also worked in Transitional Training at the Otisville Correctional Facility, conducting sociodrama on issues of domestic violence, gender identity and communication. Moller first became involved with prison education through the college program at Bedford Hills Correctional Facility where she co-chaired the first Net of Souls (1997) concert. She is also credited with co-planning the first prison art exhibit at the Northern Westchester Center for the Arts. Her prison theatre work and research was noted in the documentary film, Getting Out, on a recent radio program on WBAI, as well as in the Patent Trader, Record Review and the Westchester County Times and the New York Times. Moller’s published work spans the spectrum from prison theater to the filmic depiction of spousal relationships. Her articles have been published in Modern Drama, The Drama Review, The Journal of Criminal Justice and Popular Culture, Communication Education, Reflections: A Journal of Writing, Service Learning and Community Literacy and Modern Drama. She is a recipient of three PSC-CUNY grants and several private foundation awards. A three-time graduate of New York University, Dr. Moller earned her BFA from Tisch School of the Arts in theater, and her graduate and doctoral degrees from SENAPP in educational theater and communication arts, respectively.

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