INDIANAPOLIS – A new evaluation from the Center for Health and Justice Research at the IU Public Policy Institute found positive outcomes for inmates and facilities that take part in a unique program that provides a creative outlet for men who are incarcerated.
The Indiana Prison Writers Workshop is a 12-week creative writing program that has served 84 men in four Indiana facilities since the program began in 2017. The 90-minute courses help participants explore different writing styles in hopes of helping them improve their communication skills before they reenter society.
CHJR partnered with IPWW and the Indiana Department of Correction to better understand who is participating in the program and the impact it has on them. The evaluation included interviews with course facilitators and program participants to get their feedback on the program, as well as site visits during the workshops. The final report also gathered data to provide demographic information on who opts in to the program.
Preliminary findings suggest that taking part in creative writing programs may help participants develop skills that can help them better transition back into society, such as developing empathy, improving communication and problem-solving skills, better understanding the outcomes of their actions, and being better able to constructively deal with criticism and feedback.
Participants said writing helps them communicate ideas they can’t otherwise express. They told the research team that the courses brought them joy and most agreed that it allowed them to safely express themselves while improving their writing skills.
The study also found that programs like IPWW can reduce prisoner misconduct violations. IPWW participants saw a 38 percent reduction in such violations. The program is associated with other positive outcomes as well, such as enrollment in addiction recovery services and steady employment both while in prison and after release.