THE WRITING PROGRAM
This year marks InsideOUT Writers' (IOW) 24th year of operating its Writing Program inside Los Angeles County juvenile halls. IOW's partnership with Los Angeles County Department of Probation to provide writing classes was formalized under the Juvenile Justice Crime Prevention Act (JJCPA) in 2001. Thus, from inception, IOW's Writing Program has advanced the personal development, reflective self-assessment, capacity for productive behavior, and artistic talent of detained youth through meeting the stated goals and evolving priorities of the Probation Department. To date, we have served more than 25,000 moderate and/or high-risk youth in detention and residential treatment facilities, and provided access to on-site and referred re-entry services.
Our approach to reducing disruptive and self-destructive student behavior has always centered on writing in the facilities where detained youth find themselves at a crossroads and most in need of creating a positive and purposeful life trajectory. Each week, the Writing Program provides dynamic arts education to 175-250 youth who are incarcerated in one of four LA County juvenile detention facilities. The Writing Program is comprised of 42 weekly creative writing classes, the annual Writer's Retreat and In-Depth, a quarterly literary journal. Fifty trauma and healing informed volunteer teachers lead the 90-minute classes and encourage students to write with clarity and authenticity about their past, current, and future. Through writing, IOW students are encouraged to channel their feelings of hopelessness, anger, fear, and frustration into writing, rather than into anti-social and criminal behaviors.