Art as means to develop low skilled inmates
Erasmus+ KA2 partnership project
Project number 2018-1-PL01-KA204-050635
Duration: 01 November 2018 – 31 October 2020.
Co-funded by the Erasmus+ Programme of the European Union
Stowarzyszenie na rzecz edukacji osób wykluczonych społecznie o nazwie „Busola”
Cepa Yucatan – Hiszpania
Limerick & Clare Education & Training Board – Irlandia
CPIA 3 Nuoro – Włochy
European Prison Education Association – EPEA – Europejskie stowarzyszenie na rzecz edukacji więziennej
Prison education seems to be a very neglected field. Many inmates do not have a chance to develop themselves due to various barriers. It is often thought that prisoners should not be given a chance to expand their knowledge. Many inmates are very talented and artistically inclined and art, very often, plays a very important role in their lives. Thanks to it they can easily express their own self. They have a chance to create their own world and spend their time behind bars more productively. The aim of „Art as means to develop low skilled inmates” project is to inspire prison educators to use art as a means to smuggle basic skills during the informal learning process. Another aim of the project is to ease the process thanks to which prisoners will get an opportunity to develop already possessed skills or acquire brand new ones while “having fun” taking part in artistic activities.
Ever though we all live in the 21st century, there are still people in our societies who lack basic skills and the illiteracy ratio is quite high. One of the most disadvantaged groups in this respect, are prisoners. There is not too much research that would picture the level of basic skills within this particular group, but one can easily state that this group is very peculiar and it requires support in this respect. Within our project activities we plan to strengthen engagement of the involved institutions by sharing good practises regarding informal prison education. During the project we will organize a series of workshops, lessons, etc., which will be strictly connected with artistic activities in their broad sense, but still meant for prisoners. These activities will be planned in such a way, to make the participants acquire new skills (or develop those already possessed ones) in a more or less conscious way.
The main aim is to organize a set of additional educational activities, workshops, lessons, etc. for inmates. Thanks to the project inmates, who are engaged in the project, will have a better educational offer and will acquire new skills. Prison educators will get a chance to get to know with new techniques of working with prisoners and will widen the scope of their educational abilities. Participant will have a chance to share their experiences regarding prisoners’ education and as a final effect we hope that other prison educators (not engaged in further activities) will use similar techniques in other penal units across Europe in the future.
What have we done within the project
The kick-off meeting in Limerick, Ireland in January 2019. The main objective of the kick-off meeting was, first of all, getting to know with the whole project team from each partner country. At the same time it was obviously an inaugural meeting of the project. During the first working day project objectives were discussed, all ideas that would be implemented within the next two years were talked through. Potential risks that may influence participant (both the ones responsible for the project as well as the final beneficiaries, namely inmates) were also discussed. A very important aspect of the meeting was also a clear setting of the time frame of each project activity.
The partner responsible for evaluation and dissemination (EPEA) presented the evaluation plan and clearly set the expectations that they have towards all participants. It was defined quite precisely what all partners are to do, so that the project evaluation is useful and properly implemented. Thanks to that, participants had a chance to get to know each other more closely and understand their strengths and weaknesses.
Since the meeting was held on the premises of the Limerick prison, the host organized a tour of the penal unit. Everyone had a chance to find out how the Irish prison system works and also everyone had a chance to get to know with the Irish educational prison system. It was a very inspiring experience because it immediately led to a discussion during which various observations regarding prison education in partner countries were exchanged. This also led to several conclusions what potential teaching methods we should use in our project.
The next, very interesting part of the kick-off meeting was presentation and implementation of two practical workshops. One of them was ‘textile pieces workshop’. Since the technique is quite complicated, the hosts limited herself to presenting the options rather than factual teaching. Nevertheless, the knowledge was passed on and everyone agreed that this was a perfect way to use art as a teaching tool of inmates.
The other workshop was connected with the art of writing – calligraphy. One of the teachers working in Limerick prison shared her skills in this respect. It turns out that this form of teaching is very popular in Irish prisons and very many prisoners learn this, nowadays rarely used, technique of artistic writing. If it comes to the participants of the meeting, many of them used this educational form. A few partners promised they would introduce this teaching element in their home units.
The next point (very strong and interesting) of the meeting in Ireland was the session with an ex-prisoner. He told participants about influence of art and his engagement in artistic activities and how it helped him get back on track. It was a very inspiring experience thanks to which everyone agreed that the project has good chances of success.
Basic mathematic course created as a base for the future course of making stained glass windows meant for the prisoners of the Polish partner.
A course of making „pictures” of cloth organized by the Irish partner. During this course, prisoners had a chance to learn basic maths skills needed to this particular technique.
Language classes prepared by the Italian partner. The classes were meant for various ethnic groups to be able to express their ethos. They were organized as a tool thanks to which inmates had a chance to express themselves. Thanks to this workshop inmates could improve their writing skills.
Making greeting cards workshop. The Spanish partner introduced the activity that was about the art of making cards (i.e. birthday cards or Christmas cards). The main reason was to make cards as they are, but the hidden reason was to teach inmates creative writing. The classes were meant for foreigners.
Personal stories – the Italian partner prepared classes during which participants created personal illustrated stories. The main activity was to paint pictures that referred to their own lives, so that they could express their own feelings in this way. The next step was to “fill in” the pictures with text. In this way, prisoners were learning one of the basic skills – writing.
QQI Module – the Irish partner prepared training during which prisoners had a chance to get to know with the possibility of taking QQI exams (Quality and Qualifications Ireland). These are formal exams in Ireland which can validate one’s basic skills.
A blog – the Spanish partner engaged their students to make a blog. Thanks to this activity writing skill was improved. The blog was prepared in two language versions – English and Spanish.
A poster – the Spanish partner made an information board where information about the project and the project partners was displayed. The aim of this activity was to make a creative artistic element that goes together with a piece of writing. Workshops were meant for foreigners. Similar idea was adopted by the Italian partner.
Calligraphy classes – after getting to know with this technique during the kick-off meeting in Ireland, one of the partners introduced this activity for their students. The Italian partner prepared this activity for a group of several inmates. The main aim was to learn nice handwriting but the hidden one was to teach inmates creative and correct writing.
Paper flowers ma king workshops – the aim was to make paper flowers for the family members of the prisoners.
In autumn 2019, Polish partner organized a training event for prison educators working in other EU prisons. This was a workshop on how to use the skill of stained glass windows making when working with prisoners as one of the artistic techniques to teach basic skills. The training was very successful and all participants had positive feelings about both the content of the training as well as its practical part.
Basing on the above training, the coordinator of the project prepared a training offer, which may be used as a training event within Erasmus+ KA1 action. Using the gained experience when passing on the knowledge to colleagues from other EU prisons, we managed to prepared a brand new product. We hope to find willing participants who will want to acquire new skills. Unfortunately the year of 2020 and 2021 are not too friendly. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, majority of training events have been postponed.