When Christopher Wellington, the Director of Phoenix House Substance Abuse Treatment Program at Chuckawalla Valley State Prison in Blythe, CA, started giving inmates art supplies and encouraging them to be creative, he did not know that he will find himself in a local paper. A year after the initiation of the art therapy program at CVSP, The Palo Verde Valley Times & Quartzsite Times, providing community news for the border area of California and Arizona around Blythe, dedicated an article to the rehabilitative value of art in prison.
Mr. Wellington has noticed that inmates enrolled in our services are interested in painting and other artistic activities. He has encouraged them to pursue these activities and has provided materials such as paper, paints, crayons, etc. so that they can fill their hours and develop their creative talents.
The therapeutic use of art links behavior modification, relapse prevention and reconciliation with the society. Individuals who have hurt others through their action have learned to help others and try to make the community a more welcoming one.
The results of this artistic work have decorated the offices and hallways of our unit within the CVSP walls. The inmates and program graduates have volunteered the fruit of their artistic imagination for the purpose of inspiring others in our program. Indeed, Phoenix House greatly appreciates and encourages creativity as a vital part of treatment activities. In all our locations we develop art programs and use the clients’ artwork to decorate our facilities. These colorful paintings, drawings and banners include portraits, nature scenes, and abstract art without any inappropriate content.
Thus, the art activities provide a creative outlet for the men’s energy, give them a sense of purpose and help fill the hours with positive activities. The final products beautify the treatment rooms and offices with inspirational artwork, conveying appropriate messages to new clients of the substance abuse treatment.
The next stage is to have the artwork displayed in the local communities – in banks or offices around Blythe. Mr. Wellington stated: “The intent of this prevention project is to not only help the offender with therapeutically processing their feelings by linking behavior modification to relapse prevention, but also through reconciliation with society by way of community partnerships; schools, businesses, and faith base organization that will display the art. The hope is that people, especially the youth, will see the art and be drawn to the life experiences and its distinct lessons of drug and crime prevention. This concept also speaks to the multi-cultural component that educates those from another race to look at the offender’s culture and how it impacted his ways of seeing the world.”