Go to Top

The Piven Prison Program

In the summer of 2016, at the conclusion of The Quality of Mercy Project, Piven Theatre Workshop partnered with Cook County Department of Corrections Division 4 (Women) to launch the Piven Prison Program. This new program, modeled on Piven’s regular adult classes and with inspiration from other successful prison programs such as The Actor’s Gang Prison Project, provides three eight-week sessions of theatre per year to women in the Cook County Jail. These classes enrich, inspire, and uplift the lives of women as they await their trials, all while building a community and sense of trust among participants.

Studies have shown that arts classes in prisons provide immense benefits. These classes allow inmates to grow their creative processes, allowing them to approach problems with greater creativity and empathy. They also foster within inmates the ability to self-regulate their emotions in stressful situations. Inmates often take these new skills back into their communities within the jail or prison, encouraging a more kind, thoughtful, and empathetic environment.

The Piven Prison Program is made possible by generous supporters of the Workshop, including Brenda Robinson and the The Kelcie Fund, and so can be provided to women at the Cook County Correctional Facility with no cost to them or their families. We look forward to seeing this program continue and expand into the future, as it is an excellent example of how our work can change and uplift lives in any circumstance.

If you would like to make a donation to support the Piven Prison Program, and Piven's other outreach programming including work with adults and youths with developmental disabilities, and our extensive scholarship program, you can do so here.

It all seems so random and deep
On the ties of sisterhood
Energy filled with inspiration
It was delightful and delicious
Teamwork makes creativity
Tuesday reunions and relaxation
Family united by humor
Scrumptious friendships all so random
Welcome to girl’s night out every Tuesday.

-VANESSA
Prison Program Participant