The Alabama Prison Arts + Education Project

By Christopher Zoukis

Developed by Auburn University, the Alabama Prison Arts + Education Project (APAEP) is committed to providing educational access and opportunities to prisoners in Alabama’s prisons.  By helping prisoners reconnect with learning aspirations, the program believes it can help prisoners embrace education and transform their lives positively for the rest of their lives. The program delivers “educational experiences in the arts, humanities, hard sciences, and human sciences.”  These courses have the potential to profoundly help prisoners redirect their perspectives about their pasts as well as their future lives.  Image courtesy csmonitor.com

Coursework and ‘An Air of Purpose’

The program’s website reports that one prison warden could easily tell which inmates were involved with the program by their “air of purpose.”  This in itself is one of the program’s great benefits.  APAEP delivers a wide array of courses that provide intellectual stimulation and, of course, provide the inmates with an Auburn University transcript of completed coursework.  Although the program is not designed as a degree-track initiative, the participating prisoners are delighted to have college-level coursework under their belts.  Having this college experience behind them is often the catalyst they need to continue their education post-prison.

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Alabama Prison Arts Project

By Dianne Walker

The Alabama Prison Arts and Education Project fledged from a passion Kyes Stevens has for creating a better world for prisoners by providing educational opportunities that were far out of their reach. 

When Stevens was awarded a grant from the National Endowment for the Arts her enthusiasm for educating prisoners became a reality. She is the founder and director of the Alabama Prison Arts and Education Project that now serves inmates housed in correctional facilities throughout central and northern Alabama. 

Steven’s first visit to the prison teaching poetry revealed her compassion for her students and her love of teaching.

The objective at inception of the program was to improve the lives of inmates by providing education and exposure to the arts.

When Stevens initiated the program she did not anticipate remuneration in return for accomplishing her dreams. She and the professors that work with the program experienced personal revolutions beyond their anticipation. Educating prisoners as an avenue to transform their view of what is possible for them has opened the educator’s eyes to humbleness they didn’t know existed. 

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