Prison and reentry arts programs open up the possibility for rehabilitation, not solely punishment. Arts groups in prison allow for community and relationship building, the building of self-confidence and emotion regulation, all of which are necessary components for mental health and well-being. Prison is a dehumanizing environment that often solidifies poor mental health and post-traumatic stress. By utilizing the arts, people will finally be given the opportunity to reshape their identity around a more positive, personal accomplishment and feeling of purpose.

IN-JUST-US is an arts initiative featuring songs and music created by previously incarcerated citizens.

Music transcends barriers. It levels the playing field of understanding. It encourages compassion and empathy. It provides the artist with purpose and meaning. Collaborative artist ventures create the ultimate human need – feeling connected. IN-JUST-US provides a healthy outlet to process feelings stemming from addiction and trauma.

IN-JUST-US gives a voice to those who would otherwise not have one. It allows the chance to bring about the awareness that is so important, considering societal institutions have become so systemically broken. Creating art generates confidence and hope as we heal our wounds and become important to ourselves, our families, and our communities.

The original compositions will be submitted for selection into the program. New, as well as old songs, will be included in this project. The artists will receive a stipend and the opportunity to record at a recording studio. The songs will be developed, recorded, and transcribed. Copyright information will be available for the composer to retain ownership. Collaborative sessions will add to the diversity of members and to the social issues to be addressed. The ability to connect over Zoom eliminates any issues with the location of the artists as well as any Covid-19 concerns. It allows many to participate and have their voices heard. A website is being developed for easy access to links to IN-JUST-US projects. Interns from local colleges will also be able to help with the engineering process and graphic arts. Local and state programs put in place for returning, and citizens will be notified about this opportunity to increase its awareness and availability. Community artists and students will be invited to submit artwork needed for musical projects.

The program will take place online and at Horizon Music, who has generously donated the usage of one of their studios. This will provide a safe and professional atmosphere for writing, creating, and recording original music. Horizon Music is located on Campbell Avenue in West Haven and is owned and operated by award-winning engineer Vic Steffans.

The arts communities and the musicians will benefit by sharing these amazing stories of love and loss – of grief and joy – of triumph. People will gain insight into what needs to change in this system and what they can do to help.

I am so excited for the launch of this important program. I know firsthand how much having the opportunity to write and perform at my darkest hour changed my life, gave me hope, and founded this mission…