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Home > About > News and Events > News > Field News > Poetry Contest Highlights the Role of the Arts in Juvenile Justice

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Poetry Contest Highlights the Role of the Arts in Juvenile Justice

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May 16, 2016

Words Unlocked, an annual poetry contest launched in 2013 by the Center for Educational Excellence in Alternative Settings, is a venue in which students from juvenile correctional facilities across the country can exhibit their creativity. This year, over 1,000 students will submit poems that delve into their personal history, difficult life circumstances, and hopes for the future. NPR’s All Things Considered profiled the competition and shared excerpts from live readings done by three contestants.

According to Jimmy Santiago Baca, a judge in the contest and former juvenile inmate, poetry is a an all too rare creative outlet for imprisoned youth. "Literacy is probably the foremost resource that they need to become successful human beings. To be able to deal with sorrow, joy, loneliness, and isolation, the first step is that you have to be able to put your feelings into words—and you have to share those words with people," he says. "If you can write this out and give it to society, it's going to allow them to take the blinders off and see what's really going on with you in your life. They're going to begin to understand what's really going on in your heart. So let's give them this gift."

Working with the Urban Institute and the Chicago Community Trust, the National Guild recently published an evaluation report of the Arts Infusion Initiative. In line with Words Unlocked’s mission, the report highlights the power of arts education to improve life outcomes and reduce recidivism for juvenile offenders.

Listen to the full story here

This resource brought to you by the National Guild for Community Arts Education.