Creativity Held Captive

Everything you need to know about teaching the arts to prisoners, written by award-winning author Patricia McConnel, a former federal prisoner who has taught writing workshops in jails and prisons in five states.  In this 20-page booklet she guides you through the psychological factors you should consider before deciding to teach in prisons, explains prison culture with the unique perspective of someone who has experienced it both as an imate and as a visiting teacher, tells you what to expect from prisoners and from prison administrations, advises how to cope with an alien and sometimes harrowing environment, and tells you why teaching prisoners is one of the most rewarding kinds of teaching you can do. 

Excerpt: "...artists who teach in the prisons have much more significance to prisoners than they may have to their ordinary Free World art students. This is both good news and bad news. Good news because people often find prisoners to be among the most rewarding students to teach. You are bringing them opportunities for healthy self-expression they may have no other chance for, and the depth of their needs make them sponges for learning. The bad news is that the prisoner's desperate expectations place a horrendous responsibility on the artist to resist the temptation to encourage emotional dependency or to succumb to a sense of exaggerated self-importance. That's why it's so important to examine your motivations. Not only is what you do important, but how you do it and why."

Patricia is the author of Sing Soft, Sing Loud, an autobiographical novel based on her experiences on the street and in jails and prison.  Her prison writing has won her two grants in literature from the National Endowment for the Arts and several literary prizes.  Her short stories have been widely anthologized, and her story The Aviarian was chosen as one of the Ten Best PEN Short Stories of 1984.

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