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Programs that Help Offenders
Programs that Help Offenders

  • Teach Skills to Women.  Teach women inmates non-traditional skills which can support them as single parents and homeowners when they are released.  They need to learn to maintain their homes and cars.  
The women in a Utah Prison build 2 to 3 houses a year onsite which are then moved off-site to provide housing for low-income families. The women build these houses from the floor up, learning to frame, sheet rock, plumb, wire, lay carpet, tile, etc.  They also learn auto mechanics.  In addition, they built 2 greenhouses where they raise plants for other state agencies.  
  • Teach Skilled Trades.  North Idaho Training and Rehab Organization (NITRO) provides skilled trades, such as carpentry, fabrication, and welding to recovering addicts with criminal pasts.  This yearlong program incorporates drug and alcohol treatment, life skills training, a faith-based treatment program, and job placement with a mentor and random drug testing.
  • Teach Theater Arts in Prison.  Theater arts can be taught to help drop recidivism rates.   Professor George D. Nelson who works with prisons, probation, and parole departments in the juvenile and adult systems said,
“We are finding that we are dropping the recidivism rates by as much as 70%.”

Professor Nelson takes the things he is teaching in the university classroom setting, and uses it to help school districts with truancy problems and the prison systems with their re-education programs.

“If you go inside a school inside a prison, it looks exactly like the schools outside the prison.  So, what we are doing is saying, ‘Well, this education approach didn’t work before, but now you are inside the prison, we will do the exact same thing, and it will work this time.’”

“Acting can help at-risk youth and offenders get their life back on track.  A stage, which is normally used for performances, rehearsals and even lectures, can also be used as a classroom for students who are not reached in the usual school setting.”

Professor Nelson has taken dramatic techniques used for teaching at-risk students, and developed a program to help reach youth in correctional facilities.  He created a curriculum that is based on the principles of applied dramatics.  He uses the methodology of taking dramatic principles, shaping them to be used in non-dramatic settings, and then utilizing those principles to try and engage learners.  He uses a lot of role play, interaction, close discussions and small group work.  

This program helps the students who are termed at-risk students—those students who are struggling in school, who are smart and can learn; but for some reason the school system does not meet their needs.  They don’t learn best by sitting and doing work sheets and then taking multiple tests at the end.  This program reaches out to at-risk students the most.

Professor Nelson developed this program through experience and teaching situations in prisons, and is now sharing it with probation officers and the teachers in prison schools.

“The whole focus of what this curriculum tries to do, is to engage a learner emotionally in the process. If I can engage your values, then that class becomes a building block or part of the foundation of your life of who you are, what you think about, and what you do.  That is what education has to be.”

“The very principles of play production, of getting an audience to sit in a vicarious experience, be entertained, and have fun—using those same principles can provide people opportunities to make decisions and choices that can change their lives.  That’s more important in the long-run.”    

Professor George D. Nelson
BYU Theater & Media Arts
“BYU Theater Professor Trains Prison Educators” 

Local Organizations