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The Art of Trust


Creativity and Healing in Women’s Prison

“I walked into a group of people, of all races, from many different backgrounds, who had formed a family. I found a place where I could be human again, where I could forget that I’m just a number. I now have faith in society where once I had none.”

Kiki L., inmate at Homestead
Correctional Institution

prisonHOMESTEAD CORRECTIONAL INSTITUTION (HCI), a women’s state prison in Miami-Dade County, Florida, might seem an unlikely haven for redemption, but for many of the women incarcerated here, that’s what it is—thanks to Leslie Neal. Neal is Founder and Artistic Director of ArtSpring, a unique prison arts program that helps women connect to a creative, self-affirming space of inner freedom, often for the first time in their lives.

These uniquely designed classes often include concerts and theater performances to which prisoners, family and other outside community members are invited. Developed over 20 years, Neal’s programs are so popular with the women and respected by prison administrators that at least one class is available every day. “Once they start taking classes, they never want to stop,” says Neal. “Currently, approximately 445 of the 700 inmates participate in at least one class. We offer prerequisite, beginning, intermediate and advanced classes. Then we also provide mentoring and teaching opportunities through which women themselves guide and train other inmates.”

Over the past several decades, the number of women in U.S. prisons has been growing at a faster rate than that of men, largely due to the war on drugs and mandatory sentencing for drug crimes.1 This increase in the female prison population makes women’s rehabilitation a crucial national issue—which is why programs offered by ArtSpring are so important. Working in prisons since 1994, ArtSpring is one of the longest running arts-in-corrections programs in Florida and today offers workshops in dance, visual arts, theater, music, creative writing and poetry to over 1200 women inmates and juveniles a year.

ArtSpring programs help inmates learn behavioral and social skills that will aid them in their life transitions while incarcerated and upon release. And the proof is not just anecdotal: “The recidivism rate in Florida is close to 30%,” says Neal, “which means one of every three inmates released from a Florida prison returns to prison within three years.2 We’ve had hundreds of women pass through our programs in the last 19 years, and roughly 100 students who were enrolled in our programs for at least a year are now released. Of that 100, only one has returned.”3

Excerpt adapted from: BEYOND PRISON: Stories of Transformation from the Inside 

Kalliopeia Foundation introduces a curated collection of multimedia stories on innovative approaches to prison rehabilitation

MARCH 8, 2016 – SAN RAFAEL, CA — Beyond Prison, an immersive collection of documentary stories curated by Kalliopeia Foundation, offers a multimedia experience of the emerging field of
transformative prison programming. This is the first media project being launched under the Foundation’s new mission and grantmaking areas.  While efforts are underway to redress a broken US prison system, the stories in Beyond Prison explore seven innovative program models working right now to restore human dignity to the prison experience, and bring about deep-seated change in the lives of incarcerated men and women.

Beyond Prison’s stories — in the form of short documentary films, photography, animated infographics, and articles — examine some of what's possible in prison rehabilitation, and call attention and support to a new generation of programs that integrate essential human values as a key component of wider criminal justice reform. Together, these stories offer a unique glimpse into what prison could be: a place of transformation from the inside out.

Featured stories include:

  • A Pledge to Give Back: Guiding Rage into Power
  • Taking off the Mask: Rehabilitation Through The Arts
  • Foundations of Change: Life Skills for At-Risk Youth
  • The Art of Trust: Creativity and Healing in Women’s Prison
  • Path of Freedom: Prison Mindfulness and Meditation
  • Breaking New Ground: Gardening on the Inside
  • Circle of Strength: Restoring Relationship through Empathy

Beyond Prison is a media project of Kalliopeia Foundation. For more information, please visit or contact


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