Saturday, December 1, 2012

Hopeful news about The Shakespeare Prison Project (Wisconsin)

In August of this year, the Wisconsin Department of Corrections cancelled the Shakespeare Prison Project (TSP) at Racine Correctional Institution, a medium-security correctional facility in Sturtevant, Wisconsin.  TSP was scheduled to begin rehearsals for Hamlet on September 4, but the plan screeched to a halt when the DOC rejected a Wisconsin Humanities Council grant proposal that claimed the project was a valuable resource in inmate education, rehabilitation and reintegration.  I learned that those claims obliged the DOC to evaluate my proposal using the same rigorous standards applied to "evidence-based" programs that are already in place in corrections. 

Over the past several months, I have been in conversation with the DOC, pleading for a reconsideration of the decision.  The movement to "Save The Shakespeare Prison Project" has also received considerable media attention, and a good deal of public support (over 800 people have signed a petition in support of the project).  

When the new Secretary of the Wisconsin Department of Corrections, Edward Wall, took office in early November 2012, I asked him to review the decision to cancel The Shakespeare Prison Project.

After holding conversations with his administrators, Secretary Wall sent me an email that (1) supported the original decision to cancel, (2) expressed appreciation for my devotion to the project, and (3) invited me to submit a revised proposal that would address outstanding concerns.*  Yesterday, Racine Correctional Institution Warden John Paquin acknowledged receipt of the new proposal, for HAMLET.  It is now under review, with a decision expected in early 2013.

*The revised proposal explicitly addresses concerns about the scale of the project, which in the past required shutting down the prison gym for several days, and other major accommodations at the correctional facility.  The revised proposal also addresses long-standing security concerns associated with bringing in large numbers of guests, props, and costumes.  Finally, the proposal addresses the one issue that prompted this year's cancellation:  it does not include any implications that The Shakespeare Project is an officially sanctioned DOC "program" that holds the status of other "evidence-based" programs.

Stay tuned...

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