This paper will discuss The Chat, a project that created and implemented a working methodology for the reintegration of returning citizens using theatre, and involved the community in an active role alongside former prisoners. The workshop will unravel the unique practices of this project, followed by group analysis and discussion. The project will be introduced by it’s creator, director and former parole officer J R Brennan and his colleague Dr Anna Eriksson (Monash University).

The project enacted a utopian parole system, one envisioned as strengthening the working alliances of community corrections officers and offenders by improving their interpersonal relations and self perception.

The former prisoners who actively participated in the project formed the core of this performance; the reality of taking part as both consultants and collaborators in the rehearsals and performances (on main theatre stages in Melbourne and Brisbane) translated to an active (re)integration process which changed their lives in profound ways.
The project made possible a unique collaboration between artists, former prisoners, partnering organisations and criminologists, creating an experimental dialogue at the nexus of criminal justice practice, performance arts and academic criminology.


James Brennan
Independent / MONASH UNIVERSITY
Director

Biography: JAMES BRENNAN is a theatre practitioner, facilitator and former parole officer based in Hobart. His work pursues creative solutions in criminal justice reform and research, is research led and created in partnership with academics, corrections professionals, community, current and former prisoners. He has presented original works of theatre, music and research in Australia, Europe, Japan, and USA. James’ pioneering work moves beyond existing community arts models by posing new and challenging provocations about the relationship between ethics and aesthetics in socially engaged arts practice. In 2007 he gained a Certificate 4 in Corrective Practice, working as a parole officer in Long Bay Prison until 2010. This led him to research the role of theatre in the reintegration of prisoners in Australia and Europe, supported by the Elisabeth Murdoch Traveling Fellowship (2009). His most recent work The Chat is a contemporary performance work created and performed by artists and former prisoners. Presented at Arts House, Melbourne, it cast former prisoners as experts on criminal justice and asked audience to take part in live judgment on the performance. “An astonishing collaborative work that leaps into the deeper reality of justice“ (RealtimeArts) and “…skilfully captures the impossibly fine line parole officers must tread…” (theAustralian). In 2017 and 2018 James presents at Australian and New Zealand Society of Criminology and Probation & Community Corrections Officers in Australia conferences with collaborator Dr Anna Eriksson (Monash Criminology), discussing the application of his artistic work to the reintegration of prisoners and the training of parole officers.


Anna Eriksson
MONASH UNI Criminology
Deputy Director of Monash Criminal Justice Research Consortium Dr Anna Eriksson is an expert on Nordic Exceptionalism and imprisonment and held an ARC DECRA between 2012-2014 on the topic of comparative penology. She is based at Monash University where she also conducts research on exclusion, disability and criminal justice.

Biography: Dr Anna Eriksson is an expert on Nordic Exceptionalism and imprisonment and held an ARC DECRA between 2012-2014 on the topic of comparative penology. She is based at Monash University where she also conducts research on exclusion, disability and criminal justice.


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