The Cultural Center of Cape Cod and the Barnstable County sheriff’s office are collaborating on a new pilot program, the Metamorphosis Project, which aims to use art to help incarcerated women improve their outcomes upon their release.
Through the program, a team of artists and social workers will collaborate with women to represent their lives and stories through art, which will culminate in a mural displayed inside the jail.
Molly Demeulenare, executive director of the Cultural Center of Cape Cod believes this visual manifestation will help women both recognize and face challenges.
“A big part of changing your life is acknowledging the challenges. And art really can do that,” Demeulenare told Boston Public Radio on Friday. “When you put it [your experience] in the hands of artists and you make them feel it’s a safe place, they can see the light at the end of the tunnel.”
She hopes the program would also provide participants with valuable skills that could be applicable to building careers after they re-enter society.
“They will learn applicable skills, so they’re going to learn about color theory, they’re going to learn about graphic design, they’re going to learn about writing and communication,” Demeulenare said.
Barnstable County Sheriff Donna Buckley ran on a platform of improving outcomes for inmates after prison in 2022. The Barnstable County Correctional Facility previously had an art program but lost it along with many other offerings over the last several years due to the pandemic and reduced staffing, CAI reported last year. When Buckley was sworn in as sheriff, she wanted to revisit programming at the jail and explore new opportunities. She notes that the program has beneficial effects beyond the inmates in the prison.
“If we have 16 women [in our jail], there are 24 children who are impacted by that incarceration. There are impacts on the foster care system, on the education system,” she said, adding “People do care about the people who are incarcerated especially in our jails because they are our mothers, our fathers, our brothers, our sisters, our children.”
This program’s therapeutic, artistic approach to rehabilitation is reflective of an industry-wide attitude shift, Demeulenare says, as the value of such programs is increasingly recognized in the justice system, even beyond Massachusetts. “It’s replicable, it’s shareable, and it can be shared with other communities all over the country.”