(Above photo is a screenshot from “Dramatic Escape”)
(Above photo is a screenshot from “Dramatic Escape” – originally published Jun. 5, 2017)
Rehabilitation Through the Arts (RTA) is all about second chances.
Not only does it give prison inmates a second chance at life by teaching them the skills they’ll need to succeed in the world once released from prison, but it also gives the world a second chance at the way they view those who are incarcerated.
The non-profit organization brings theater, dance, visuals arts, music and writing into five New York State prisons, including Westchester’s Sing Sing Prison in Ossining and Bedford Hills Women’s Correctional Facility, as well as Woodbourne, Green Haven, and Fishkill correctional facilities. They’ve recently added Rikers Island to their roster of prison programs.
New York’s local PBS station, THIRTEEN, will feature the full-length documentary “Dramatic Escape” about RTA’s production of “A Few Good Men” at Sing Sing Correctional Facility on Tuesday, June 13 at 9:30 p.m. and again on Sunday, June 25 on WLIW21.
Through the transformative power of art, inmates find their voice, discover their talents, and learn empathy which RTA says has led to reduced infractions, a 5 percent recidivism rate, and the pursuit of college and post-graduate degrees.
The documentary offers an inside look at how art changes an inmate’s outlook on life and offers them the skills they need to successfully reintegrate into society. “Dramatic Escape” shows the process of prisoners who go through an audition to curtain call, all while telling their personal stories, struggles and contemplating the possibility of redemption.
“People saw me as a wolf so I was a wolf,” one inmate says in the film. “But the people at RTA saw me as a man, so I had to be man.”
RTA helps more than 200 incarcerated men and women to develop vital social and cognitive skills like communication, problem-solving, conflict resolution, self-discipline, and goal-setting six days a week.
They invite inmate families and members of the public to view their public performances.
“We bring in the community for each theatrical performance. People often will come for the novelty of going into a prison to see ‘criminals’. They come out with changed perspectives, realizing they are seeing individuals, human beings that deserve second chances.”
Most of these inmates grew up without art in the lives and surrounded by poverty or unfortunate circumstances, but RTA shows them that another life is possible after their time is served. RTA says their program is a cost-effective way to change behavior while providing humane incarceration with successful results for reentry into the world.
“I’m grateful that I came into contact with RTA,” one inmate says in the documentary. “I’m?grateful that I did take this opportunity to grow into the man that I’m supposed to be and I’m grateful for the opportunity to get some things accomplished when I leave.”
You can learn more about RTA, their programs, and how to support their work by visiting their website at rta-arts.org.