What is a prison arts program?

Prison arts programming refers to arts-based workshops, projects, and courses offered in prisons, jails, juvenile detention centers, reentry, restorative justice, or diversion programs. Possible art forms include creative writing, poetry, visual art, dance, drama, and music. Yoga, meditation, and horticulture may also be considered prison arts programs. All of these art forms may also be combined into multi-disciplinary art programs.

Who offers these programs?

Prison arts programs are facilitated by a variety of people. This includes:

  • individuals, including volunteers, professional artists, teaching artists, students, professors, and people in prison
  • groups, organizations, and institutions, including voluntary groups, non-profit organizations, and universities
  • prison staff or individuals employed by a prison
  • partnerships across these various groups

Where do programs take place?

Art programs take place in prisons across the United States, from low security facilities to high security facilities. On this site, we have identified 48 states with prison arts programs. Please search by region and state to find programs:

Some programs are offered on a national level (such as the annual PEN Prison Writing Contest), although they are listed by state based on office location.

The list of prison art programs is in constant development and does not reflect the total number of programs across the US. If you would like to add a program, please contact

In addition to prison art programs, what other art takes place in and around the US criminal justice system?

This includes, but is not limited to:

  • art produced by people in prison, whether for personal, social, familial, or other purposes
  • art produced by people outside prison, including former prisoners and artists exploring issues in criminal justice
  • programs outside prison for and by former prisoners, organized by individuals, groups, and organizations

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