Across juvenile detention centers in California, the InsideOUT Writers (IOW) Program promotes positive development and offers an outlet for self-expression to incarcerated youth. With roots in a program started in 1996 by Sister Janet Harris, chaplain of a Los Angeles, California juvenile hall, IOW empowers participants to express themselves and cultivate self-confidence and self-appreciation through creative writing classes and writing retreats. In 2009, IOW also developed an alumni program that supports former students with mentors, writing circles, and resources to help with challenges associated with reentry.
IOW receives support from the Bureau of Justice Assistance (BJA) through the Edward Byrne Memorial Justice Assistance Grant (JAG) Program. Since 2015, JAG has funded approximately 90 percent of IOW alumni program operations with $50,000 annually. More than 1,500 youth currently participate in IOW classes, and the alumni program has served approximately 400 young adults by partnering with community organizations that offer programming and services. According to Jimmy Wu, IOW Interim Executive Director and former IOW student, less than 10 percent of IOW participants reoffend after release, demonstrating the program’s ability to reduce juvenile recidivism rates.
To learn more about this innovative program, read the full BJA success story article.