Arts and Juvenile Justice


Unlocking the Light (UTL)

Research shows that arts programs can have significant impact on promoting positive youth development, which is essential to addressing adolescent behavior and the risk and protective factors associated with behavioral problems and delinquency. 

In 2006, the Collaborative for Educational Services (then Hampshire Educational Collaborative) initiated Unlocking the Light, an innovative arts integration and professional development program designed to aid DYS teachers in reaching and teaching students, while encouraging active involvement of detained youth in learning, and in envisioning their futures.

Supported by a federal grant from the Department of Education, the program combined classroom-based artist residences with professional development strategies that provided teachers with creative strategies for engaging DYS students with standards-based skills, such as literacy, numeracy, critical and reflective thinking.

UTL not only changed the way students interacted with academic content, but it fostered an increased sense of responsibility and greater awareness of self and the world for its participants. Teachers gained access to a wider range of teaching strategies through incorporation of art techniques in core content instruction.

Perhaps most importantly, teachers saw their students as possessing strengths they hadn't previously recognized, and had at their figertips news ways to encourage students to reach their full potential.

Read "Unlocking the Light: Integrating the Arts in Juvenile Justice Education" (Issue Brief).

Creative Transitions

in 2005, a statewide "ArtsinFusion" coalition was formed in Massachusetts to integrate the arts throughout the Commonwealth's juvenile justice system. In the spring and summer of 2008, supported by a grant from the U.S. Department of Education and administered by CES, the ArtsInFusion Task Force ran the Creative Transitions demonstration project. The project was designed to develop and test tools, protocols, approaches, and relationships that could support the integration of the arts and cultural opportunities within a number of DYS programs across the state.

Creative Transitions focused on artist residencies in DYS residential treatment facilities and Community Re-Entry Centers in Boston, Holyoke, Pittsfield, and Springfield, and provided youth with opportunities to continue with community programs once their court-mandated involvement had been completed.

Creative Transitions demonstrated that arts programs can be valued by young people and DYS youth workers alike, and have the potential to produce an array of positive experiences and outcomes for young people in DYS facilities. The give youth new skills, interests, and alternative ways to regulate their emotions and express their feelings.

Read a Creative Transitions project report by Brandeis University.