The curtains open, and there stands Dorothy, dressed in her blue and white checkered dress, her home blown far from Kansas--the place where her childhood memories lie. The story is a familiar one that is known to millions of people around the world as the "Wizard of Oz." Only in this rendition, Dorothy is a six-foot-tall African American male with braids. At first, the audience lets out a laugh at the absurdity of the situation. The audience--a group of hardened inmates--believe that they have seen everything there is to see, a sea of people dressed in institution blues. Then, something happens and Dorothy lets out a voice that silences the crowd. She sings about a place that is lost--a place somewhere over the rainbow--and for that moment, the incredulity of the situation disappears and the suspension of disbelief occurs. Now the inmates are there with her.
The Bluebird Express program is a book and drama club at Ross Correctional Institution (RCI) in Chillicothe, Ohio, designed to captivate and maintain the attention of offenders showing the desire and interest in expanding their horizons while incarcerated. The program was created by Correctional Officer Darwin Secrest, who is a 20-year veteran of the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction. Program participants are required to read a book as a group and develop a performance based on the book. Through the reading phase, two inmate reading coordinators are assigned to lead and discuss conflicting views and thoughts on the text. This segment allows each individual to gain a unique perspective and insight into the book. The goals and objectives of the program are listed as follows:
* To promote interest in the arts and continue to make literacy materials and aids available to the inmate population;
* To allow personal growth and a sense of achievement among inmates participating in the program as designed within the Ohio Plan;
* To provide a safe and secure environment for those working to reestablish themselves within society while learning new skills to carry forward;
* To provide positive interaction between both staff and inmates; and
* To promote basic communication skills and the concept of working within a team.
The program started in summer 2013, and more than 40 inmates volunteered to participate. All of the costumes were designed and made by the inmates in the program, utilizing the community service sewing room. Stage props were constructed out of card...