Hall at the Univeristy of Denver

(Photo by gregobagel, istockphoto) University Hall at the University of Denver in Denver.

The University of Denver has brought theater to an unlikely place: prison.

Men from the Sterling Correctional Facility will come to Denver on Tuesday to perform “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest” for inmates at the Denver Women’s Correctional Facility.

The production is part of the DU Prison Arts Initiative. The university partnered with the Colorado Department of Corrections to fund three years of arts programming for prisoners.

The program “strives to normalize the prison environment, empower inmates to improve their quality of life, and prepare them to make positive changes in their community upon release,” says a news release from DU.

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“This program is the first of its kind in the state, and puts Colorado on the map as a national leader in funding prison arts initiatives,” the release states.

Colorado’s prisons house 20,000 inmates. State leaders in recent years have focused on cutting the number of inmates who return to prison after their release.

In 2017, the DOC’s most recent statistics, nearly a third of released inmates were charged with a new crime within 12 months of their release.

Research has shown that prison arts programs positively affect inmate attitudes and motivation, which can improve their outcomes post-release.

A Justice Policy Journal study in 2014 found that inmate-artists were significantly more likely to pursue other educational and vocational programs than other prisoners.

DU plans to bring the arts to every prison in Colorado.

“This is one of the DU Prison Arts Initiative’s most ambitious projects to date, but this is just the beginning,” the release says.

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