Shakespeare and Juvenile Delinquents

Shakespeare Behind Bars sponsors a wide variety of creative programs aimed at youth in the juvenile delinquency system and adults in the criminal court system around the country.  For instance, the Incarcerated Youth at Play program uses the themes in Shakespeare’s plays to teach children how to “speak and respond in relationship to other people and to the world around them.”  It includes children 12-17 years old who are placed at the Division of Youth Services (Department of Correction), and there is a companion training program for teachers in those facilities.

Shakespeare in the Courts has juvenile delinquents work with actors through classes, rehearsals and performances of scenes of Shakespeare’s plays.  The program lasts 10-14 weeks and is a specific term of probation for the children.

Changing Lives Through Literature (CLTL) pairs judges, probation officers, and a professors/facilitators in an alternative sentencing program “to offer great literature to prisoners in a democratic book group format.  Over 4,500 probationers around the country have graduated from CLTL…”

There are many more options on the main website, including a documentary about the adult-aimed program that premiered at the Sundance Film Festival in 2005.

The key is that there are very creative programs that are helping to expose our children to other experiences, mentors, leaders, and options.  These types of artistic programs should be another piece of the puzzle as we try to address the needs and issues facing our children.  There are a number of these Shakespeare-based programs in neighboring states — Kentucky and Michigan — that could be explored to determine what could be brought to Indiana.

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