April is Second Chance Month. Second Chance Month is a nationwide effort to raise awareness about the barriers that those with a criminal record face in the United States.
The Confined Arts believes in the power of art as a tool for political and social transformation and is committed to highlighting the role of the arts to: (1) offer second chance opportunities to artists who have been impacted by the criminal legal system, and (2) change the dehumanizing narratives that prevent people from receiving second chances post-incarceration. Art, as a political and social tool, is overlooked and undervalued by leaders who do not utilize arts advocacy tools. TCA believes art should be in every change agent’s toolbox as a means to change perception, build relationships, and foster action. We recognize the importance of deconstructing collateral consequences and making it easier for formerly-incarcerated people to live in a free and fulfilling way.
The Phoenix Players Theatre Group (PPTG) is a performance collective founded by Michael Rhynes and Clifford Williamson, incarcerated men in the Auburn Correctional Facility in central New York. In the words of the group’s founders, “[PPTG] is a transformative theatre community, which utilizes theatre to reconnect incarcerated people to their full humanity.” Even though the group invites several civilian facilitators into its meetings, PPTG is run and operated by incarcerated people. Since 2009, PPTG has held small, tight-knit workshops for two hours each Friday evening, with the aim of creating a space where imprisoned writers and performers can be witnessed, and where they can initiate a process of personal, cultural, and socio-political transformation.
PPTG is a part of the Arts, Justice, and Safety Coalition, a group of arts organizations and programs focused on racial justice, restorative justice, transformative justice, and Criminal Justice Reform.
Shawanna Vaughn is the founder and the Director of Silent Cry Inc., a New York based non-profit organization that takes a holistic approach to aftercare from mass incarceration, gun violence and trauma. They understand that the quality of care is the single biggest factor for impacting and invoking changes and they support affected children and families during and after a challenging period.
Shawanna Vaughn has also worked to raise awareness around Post Traumatic Prison Disorder, underscoring the traumas created by incarceration and calling for training of prison personnel in the basic core competencies of trauma informed mental health care, comprehensive policies for service provision to incarcerated individuals, investments in behavioral healthcare services (including screening, assessment and clinical interventions for trauma) as well as facilitating connection to services post-release.