Rationale

Prison life is characterized by a significant restrains of personal control, severe perturbations in communication, superficial, distorted and highly conflictive relationships with others, stress and traumatic experiences and the inability or impossibility of expressing feelings, thoughts and opinions. All of this poses a real problem in coping and adapting to the surrounding environment, as well as in changing the problematic behavior and adopting a more constructive one.

In order to accomplish its role and help inmates become responsible citizens, the prison must not only restrain the inmates for a certain period of time, but most importantly, must offer adequate educational and therapeutic services. Although the specialized activities and programs use interactive techniques and methods, they don’t really address the problems in the context they appear and are aimed toward one or two dimensions of the phenomenon, neglecting the importance of the whole context. By contrast, psychodrama techniques create a safe environment for exploring one’s needs, thoughts, feelings and behaviors, without fear of rejection or negative labeling, offering at the same time the opportunity for learning from others, for personal growth and for managing conflicts within the group. Using psychodrama techniques with inmates enhances their chances for change, for adopting appropriate behaviors, for cognitive reframing through exposure to new learning situations and for assuming a new socially acceptable role and identity. One of the key benefits of using psychodrama is that the technique allows conflicts to be addressed and resolved properly.

Creative teaching activities can be an alternative for enhancing the efficiency of prison education. Many inmates begin a prison sentence with negative experiences concerning their previous formal education, which usually ended up in early school failure. This is the main reason why many inmates reject the idea of being involved in formal learning programs in prison, arguing that if they didn’t like school outside, there is no point in attending the same activity inside a prison. By contrast, the psychodrama techniques and pedagogical games can surmount these resistances, by using role play and facilitating creative and spontaneous self-disclosure.

Psychodrama uses creative exercises, spontaneity and brings forward positive emotions, and this is the main reason why, when applied to education, it facilitates both learning the content and enhancing the level of prisoners’ motivation in attending educational activities.

In spite of its benefits, psychodrama is yet not sufficiently used by the prison personnel and by the volunteers who work with inmates, due to their limited understanding and knowledge in this field. Thus, this project brings an innovative approach to personnel training by using psychodrama techniques, helping them to adopt a more interactive approach when working with inmates.

The training of the personnel and of the volunteers involved in the education and rehabilitation of inmates will address the following dimensions:

  • improve the communication and relational skills of personnel and volunteers, needed for working with groups;
  • develop interactive intervention techniques, aimed towards the psychological problems of inmates;
  • reduce deviant behaviors of inmates;
  • facilitate the coping abilities of inmates regarding prison life and reintegration process;
  • enhance the process of creating and assuming a social role by inmates.
  • By implicating trainers from two psychodrama associations, this project allows a European exchange of good practices, in order to identify the most effective psychodrama techniques and exercises that could be applied in working with inmates. This approach will allow the dissemination of the project’s results both at a national and European level.