Project Uncaged

Addressing the unique needs of incarcerated young women

About Project Uncaged

Project Uncaged is a project of IDIOM Writing & Arts.

girls writing JJCStudies repeatedly show that, as the number of girls in the juvenile justice system increases, their needs often remain unmet by a system designed for boys. Not only do girls’ pathways to justice involvement differ from boys’, but girls in the system are more likely than boys to have histories of trauma, sexual assault, and all forms of abuse. They also have higher Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) scores, and are more likely to have mental illness diagnoses (Saar et al., 2015; Sherman & Balck, 2015; Pai-Espenosa, 2014).

The Juvenile Justice and Delinquency (JJD) Act, last reauthorized in 2002, called for gender-responsive approaches in juvenile justice polices, practices, and programming. Unfortunately, these are still lacking in many states and communities.

Meanwhile, the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention (OJJDP) has long identified arts programming for juveniles as “highly empowering and transforming for the participants.” “These programs,” the OJJDP site states,

are more than opportunities to be expressive. Contact with the arts offers a positive stimulus that can interrupt the drift into a negative lifestyle. Arts programs have been shown to empower a population that few programs have been able to reach.

OJJDP’s guidelines for effective gender-responsive programs call for curricula reflecting women’s roles in society and promoting positive female role models, yet these programs are rare in detention.

–> “Project Uncaged” combines the need for gender-responsive programs with the success of arts programming by conducting trauma- and evidence-informed writing and arts modules designed specifically for young incarcerated women. These modules provide purposeful activity, outlets for expression, and opportunities for performance. They also increase communication skills, improve group dynamics among participants, and encourage healthy relationships and future planning — all while discussing participants’ identities and experiences as young women.

photoDELIVERABLES
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Modules culminate in a well-orchestrated closing event, and professionally-bound books of participants’ poetry. Books are then distributed to participants, staff, community leaders, and more. When a visual arts component is added, each participant either creates a handmade project to keep, or contributes to a group project displayed at the facility or elsewhere in the community.

These end “products” provide exciting, tangible goals for the week. They also give the participants something of which to be proud, and create opportunities for girls’ concerns, needs, and experiences to be better seen and heard by those who work with them: probation officers, family members, teachers, facility staff, social workers, youth organization leaders, juvenile justice researchers, and more.

To schedule a workshop or obtain more information, please contact Tasha Golden by sending an email to:
projectuncaged [at] gmail [dot] com

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