Act V: Did you catch This American Life last weekend?

Re-aired and released via podcast last weekend, Act V is a 2002 This American Life episode about the piecemeal performance of Hamlet by a group of prisoners at the Missouri Eastern Correctional Center. The performance was organized by St. Louis-based Prison Performing Arts, a multi-discipline literacy and performing arts program that serves incarcerated adults and children.

Reporter Jack Hitt follows the performers through the rehearsals and performance, documenting the process and overlaying the circumstances of the play with the circumstances of the inmates' lives, both before and after entering the Correctional Center.

Listen to the episode here.

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A Safety Valve for Inmates, the Arts, Fades in California

From The New York Times:

Two years ago, arts in corrections programs were a mainstay of prisons across the country, embraced by administrators as a way to channel aggression, break down racial barriers, teach social skills and prepare inmates for the outside world. There was an arts coordinator in each of the 33 California state prisons, overseeing a rich variety of theater, painting and dance.

But these programs have become a fading memory, casualties of the budget crises that have overwhelmed state and local governments nationwide. Nowhere is that truer than here, where prisons are so overcrowded that the Supreme Court in May ordered the state to start releasing inmates.

www.nytimes.com/2011/07/01/us/01prison.html

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