December 16, 2010
The Lubbock Avalanche Journal reports on a creative anti-recidivism approach at their local county jail:
A county jail would not seem a likely place to teach art classes, but a new program where Texas Tech art students are working with Lubbock County jail inmates on art projects is proving to be good for both the inmates and the Tech students.
It gives the inmates a break in their normal routine, and it gives the art students a chance to help brighten lives while learning insights about the lives of others. One inmate commented the art classes help with depression, and another said the classes help inmates deal with anger.
A pilot program introduced by Sheriff Kelly Rowe in which inmates with good conduct get to participate in classes — ones that also include parenting and anger management — is showing encouraging numbers at reducing recidivism, which is the tendency of jail inmates to repeat their crimes and return to jail.
Tech art teacher Dennis Fehr’s students who became temporary art teachers fit right in. It’s a promising beginning.
Whenever I see local officials embracing such ideas, I'm always hopeful they're actually tracking outcomes for participating offenders to determine (based on evidence, as opposed to feel-good bromides) whether it's actually having a tangible impact. I also imagine the tactic might be enhanced if there were a reentry component, encouraging ex-inmates to embrace artistic pastimes when they get out. It's easy to pooh-pooh such projects, but if they track recidivism data and it has a significant impact, then it's well worth enduring accusations that the Sheriff has embraced a "hug a thug" approach.