Challenge #5 with Shakespeare in Prison

In the heat of Black Lives Matter protest, a call for defunding of police and the abolishment of prisons, why do we need to invest in the incarcerated population and a system that is clearly broken? 95% of incarcerated people will return home to be members of society, maybe even your neighbor. So although our systems are broken, supporting the incarcerated population is a key to success. Programs like Shakespeare in Prison are the key to humanity in prisons. The key to supporting your new neighbor. 

While working with Shakespeare In Prison we met Asia, a program alumni, who has found success on the other side of her incarceration. Asia now works for the Bail Project as a Bail Disrupter and is closely connected with the Detroit Justice Center. Shakespeare in Prison gives incarcerated people the opportunity to learn and grow through the arts. Program participants, like Asia, are given the opportunity to reflect on their past, present and future while gaining confidence, self-esteem, and crucial skills. So although we may call for the abolishment of prisons we must also call for the support of programs like Shakespeare in Prison. Programs that develop our neighbors and the next leaders of the social justice movement.

This work with SIP was crucial to Asia building critical skills and finding her passion in the work at the Bail Project, a national nonprofit organization that works to restore the presumption of innocence by posting bail for system-impacted people. The whole person approach of Shakespeare in Prison is also apparent in the work of the Bail Project. Once bail is posted, the work has only just started. The Bail Project also helps clients with mental health services, transportation, housing, and other services that help break cycles of poverty. This wrap-around approach supports clients and as Asia puts it, “guilty or innocent, we are all human.”

In Detroit, the Bail Project chapter is housed at the Detroit Justice Center, a local nonprofit organization that provides free legal advocacy services, leads economic justice initiatives, and reimagines safety in cities through the Just Cities Lab. Through this work, Detroit Justice Center not only works to protect Detroiters today, but pushes towards a more equitable city in the future. 

Through working with Shakespeare in Prison for our final challenge project, we explored how to support those impacted by the carceral system. We realized these systems are complex and pushing for better communities means supporting system-impacted people today. Solutions need to include a wrap-around approach and address these issues on all fronts. Through supporting Shakespeare in Prison, the Bail Project, and Detroit Justice Center, you can invest in women-led nonprofits advocating for some of society’s most neglected populations.

If you are looking for ways to support these programs you can visit the links below to learn more and make a financial contribution.

It was an amazing experience to work with Shakespeare in Prison. We had the pleasure to hear about from program leaders and alumni who shared the impact that the program has on the metro Detroit community.