In England, funding for the Writers In Prison Network (WIPN) – a group that sends writers into prisons to work with inmates – is being threatened. WIPN has based one of their programs, “Stories Connect” off of the Changing Lives Through Literature model. In the following BBC article, Arts Reporter Liam Allen presents the possibility that the WIPN program actually saves the government money by providing a rehabilitation service to inmates, and thus presenting them with options and opportunities upon their release from prison. Also on the site, a small article written by WIPN’s Clive Hopwood about the CLTL model program, “Stories Connect.”
“Can Writing Stop Prisoners Reoffending?”
Erwin James, a former inmate who served 20 years for two “appallingly serious” murders, says prisons are “full of people who are not very good at communicating effectively or appropriately”.
“They can communicate with a pool ball in a sock or a razor on the end of a toothbrush or by shouting and bawling,” he adds.
“What we did in the group went back to the wing with us and made us more thoughtful and more reflective,” he says. “Writing does that.”
Communication is no longer a problem for James, now a successful author and Guardian journalist.
The Writers in Prison Network (WIPN) – started in 1992 by Arts Council England and the Home Office under a Tory government – was “instrumental in making me think that maybe I could do this as a job”, he says.
The network funds writers-in-residence, each costing £20,000, at 16 prisons across England. Alongside creative and autobiographical writing, they help offenders with projects including oral storytelling, staging plays, publishing magazines, making videos, producing radio shows and recording rap music.
On Wednesday, Arts Council England – which has had its budget slashed by 30% and which currently funds half of the residencies – will tell the Writers in Prison Network if it is going to reduce or cut its grants.
If it does, the network could be forced to reduce its number of residencies – or even fold.