Education in the Arts Can Provide a Way Forward for Formerly Incarcerated Black Men

A new report from the Graduate College of Social Work at the University of Houston shows that formerly incarcerated Black men enrolled in an alternative school with arts-based programming — writing, poetry, music — showed healthier social and emotional development and higher academic achievement as they transitioned to adulthood. The lead author of the study is Charles Lea, now an assistant professor at the Graduate College of Social Work at the University of Houston.

Young Black men are disproportionately incarcerated compared to other racial and gender groups, and with little coordination between the justice system and the educational system, more than 40 percent of young people released from correctional facilities don’t return to school.

Dr. Lea’s research was conducted at an alternative high school in Los Angeles County that offers arts-based programming. Study participants expressed difficulty reentering society, in part because their early incarceration put them behind academically and otherwise affected their social and emotional development.

Previous research has found the arts, which emphasize the personal, emotional, human and spiritual aspects of learning, can positively influence young people who have been exposed to adversity. “It’s a way they can express themselves comfortably, whether that’s through music, poetry or performance, but little was known about how it could impact Black men who had been incarcerated,” said Dr. Lea, “Having these alternative ways to engage and educate is critical to address racial disparities in criminal justice.”

Dr. Lea is a graduate of the University of California, Berkeley, where he majored in sociology. He holds a master of social work degree from the University of Michigan and a Ph.D. in social welfare from the University of California Los Angeles.

The study, “Everybody is an Artist”: Arts‐based Education and Formerly Incarcerated Young Black Men’s Academic and Social-Emotional Development in an Alternative School,” was published on the website of the American Journal of Community Psychology. It may be accessed here.

Related Articles

1 COMMENT

Leave a Reply

Get the JBHE Weekly Bulletin

Receive our weekly email newsletter delivered to your inbox

Latest News

Black Film Project and Film Studies Fellowships Established at Harvard University

Henry Louis Gates Jr., professor and director of the Hutchins Center for African and African American Research at Harvard University, will direct the newly established Black Film Project, an initiative aiming to support independent films focusing on Black history and culture.

Higher Education Grants or Gifts of Interest to African Americans

Here is this week’s news of grants or gifts to historically Black colleges and universities or for programs of particular interest to African Americans in higher education.

Yale Library Acquires Digital Collection of Langston Hughes Papers

In a recent December upload, the Yale University Library added a collection of papers from Black poet Langston Hughes to the school's online archive. The collection contains correspondence between Hughes and other authors and civil rights activists of his time.

Academic Fields Where Blacks Earned Few or No Doctoral Degrees in 2022

In 2022, African Americans earned 1.2 percent of all mathematics and statistics doctorates, 1.2 percent of all doctorates in computer science, 1.7 percent of all doctorates in chemistry, and only 1.7 percent of all doctorates awarded in engineering disciplines.

Featured Jobs