It was with great delight that I and my colleagues at Dell'Arte International read your recent cover story about writer Cecilia Holland's and artist Julie McNeil's work with prisoners at Pelican Bay State Prison as a part of the statewide Arts in Corrections program ("Students Inside," Jan. 4). Ms. Holland deserves much credit for her work, in particular with her students held in SHU.
I'd like to point out that a theatre program, established by myself and fellow faculty member Janessa Johnsrude in 2016, is also running at Pelican Bay and was given no mention in the article. We are currently offering five classes on three yards throughout the year. Dale Morgan, a Crescent City based musician, is the guitar teacher mentioned in the article. The five of us comprise the Arts in Corrections "crew" contracted through the William James Association to provide programming at Pelican Bay State Prison.
Working with the men incarcerated at Pelican Bay has been incredibly inspiring and I am thankful that Gov. Brown's efforts to reform the current senseless state of mass incarceration has given us an opportunity to do so. It has been statistically verified that instruction in artistic disciplines reduces recidivism, as well as generating a positive focus for those who need it most. There are others providing arts programming on a county level: prisoner-rights advocate Vanessa Vrtiak is working with people at the county jail and local musician Cory Goldman teaches youth incarcerated in our juvenile facility.
All of this work helps to shift attitudes on the inside and outside, recognizing that most people who are incarcerated will eventually return to society and they need tools to be able to meet that prospect positively and creatively, as we all do.
Zuzka Sabata, Blue Lake