Last month residents of the Sterling Correctional Facility performed “One Flew Over the Cuckcoo’s Nest,” the play made famous by the film of the same name that scooped several Oscars in 1976, including Best Picture, Best Actor, Best Actress, and Best Writing, Screenplay Adapted From Other Material.
“The show, produced by the University of Denver’s Prison Arts Initiative, is part of a recent expansion of arts programs inside prisons and jails that dovetails with the movement to rethink a corrections system that now holds 2.2 million people in the United States,” states NY Times journalist, Jack Healey, who was in the audience along with the Sterling residents and members of Colorado’s city and state government officials, including Governor Jared Polis and the executive director of the Department of Corrections, Dean Williams. Willams shared with Healey, “Bringing artists and audience members into prison was part of a strategy to make life inside prison as similar as possible to life outside. It is called normalization, an idea inspired by Scandinavian countries where inmates cook their own food, interact with people from the outside and have a less adversarial relationship with corrections officers.”
The production and direction of the play was led by Ashley Hamilton, who runs the Prison Arts Initiative within the University of Denver’s Arts, Humanities, and Social Science department. This program “promotes access to high-quality therapeutic arts programs to incarcerated people in Colorado with the goal of empowering individuals to improve the quality of their lives and prepare to make positive changes in their communities upon release. DU PAI sees this work as part of DU’s commitment to be ‘a great private university dedicated to the public good.'”
Read Healey’s New York Times story, “How A Prison Play Goes On Tour.”
Check out our new blog series, Insight Out, authored by Sterling resident, Dante Owens.