The mission of InsideOUT Writers is to reduce the juvenile recidivism rate by providing a range of services that evolves to meet the needs of currently and formerly incarcerated youth and young adults.
Using creative writing as a catalyst for personal transformation, these young people are empowered with the knowledge and skills necessary to successfully re-integrate into our communities, becoming advocates for their future.
InsideOUT Writers (IOW) was founded in 1996 and incorporated as a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization in 1999. IOW grew out of the vision of juvenile hall chaplain, Sister Janet Harris, former Los Angeles Times journalist, Duane Noriyuki, and several other professional writers who volunteered to teach creative writing to youth incarcerated in Los Angeles County’s Central Juvenile Hall. The founders’ sensitivity and respect for the power of the written word fostered an environment of trust and camaraderie whereby students’ creativity flourished in spite of the harsh and oppressive conditions of detention.
What started as three weekly classes at Central Juvenile Hall has grown to 39 weekly classes in four juvenile detention facilities (Central, Los Padrinos and Barry J. Nidorf Juvenile Halls and Camp David Gonzales). IOW also offers a class at LA County’s Men’s Central Jail for former juvenile hall students who are now serving time in the adult prison system.
As a complement to the writing classes, IOW also convenes annual Writers’ Retreats at each juvenile detention facility and publishes In Depth, a quarterly literary journal of students and alumni writings. Since 1996, more than 11,000 youth have participated in over 15,000 classes.
In 2009, recognizing the need for comprehensive re-entry programs and services, IOW expanded its work to include efforts to support former students upon their release from detention. The Alumni Program provides a continuum of care to Writing Program students who have been released from detention and seeks to ensure they are empowered with the skills and knowledge necessary to be self-sufficient agents of change in our communities. Through the Alumni Program, young people receive services and participate in programming designed to support their on-going development of pro-social attitudes and behaviors that will serve them well as they continue in their transition from incarceration.
The Alumni Program is comprised of six interconnected components: 1) case management; 2) life skills enrichment sessions; 3) a mentoring program; 4) writing circles; 5) community engagement and 6) cultural events & field trips. The goal of the Alumni Program is to reduce participants’ likelihood of re-offending and to increase their skills and capacity to become self-sustaining, productive members of our communities. Since its establishment, the Alumni Program has served more than 100 young people and has partnered with over 125 local community organizations to provide dynamic programming and services to meet their needs.