Project Slam

A10 5

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The purpose of the study was to examine the impact of the prison theatre program, Rehabilitation through the Arts (RTA) on the attitudes and behavior of participants. A total of 65 prisoners participated. Three treatment groups, a total of 36 participants including Beginners, Intermediates and Advanced theatre group members, were matched with 29 prisoners with no experience in the theatre program. All participants completed personality measures on anger and coping at two intervals before and after the stage production of the play, Slam. Institutional records on pre-and post-production disciplinary infractions, program participation and reclassification upgrades were examined as a measure of the behavioral component. Findings revealed that behavioral differences between the Beginner RTA group and the Controls were not significant; however, in a three-group comparison, when the RTA Advanced and Intermediate groups were combined into the experienced group and compared with the Control group, the differences were more dramatic, suggesting that the RTA group had significantly fewer disciplinary infractions, as well as less time locked in their cells. An unexpected finding revealed that significant attitudinal changes over the duration of the study were less associated with the individual groups, per se, than with behavior of the individual. The relationship between personality, specifically anger levels and infractions may have an important behavioral consequence relating to the impact of the program. Experienced RTA members reported a higher level of intensity of angry feelings than either the Beginners or the Controls on state and trait anger measures. Despite the elevated anger reported, the experienced RTAs committed very few infractions. It is possible that despite the higher levels of anger, RTA participants may be using theatre as a legitimate outlet to manage angry feelings.