Inmates participate in the The Actors’ Gang Prison Project program at the California Rehabilitation Center in Norco, a city roughly 50 miles southeast of Los Angeles. The program was created in 2006 to teach prisoners how to develop empathy, express themselves in a positive manner and create healthy relationships. Every year The Actors’ Gang conducts at least three eight-week workshops inside the California prison system, where eight out of 10 inmates will return to prison within three years of release.
“I have become one with the other guys. We have all become closer and more comfortable. We have all shown our true selves and the goodness that lies within us. The goodness that just needed to be cultivated,” said Jerrawe, an inmate at the California Rehabilitation Center.
In 2012 a federal court ruled that due to overcrowding, California had to release thousands of inmates. The San Jose Mercury News reported that the state had freed some 30,000 inmates, but still faced an April 2014 deadline to release another 7,000. A few months before that deadline, a three-judge panel gave the state until 2016 to resolve overcrowding, the newspaper reported.
Theactorsgang.com, the organization’s website, states that while California’s prison system receives more state funding than public higher education, little money is invested in prisoner rehabilitation or preparation for transition to life out of prison. The Prison Project aims to counteract that.
“For 24 weeks each year, we teach a racially integrated group of inmates who form lasting bonds as they undertake personal transformation together,” the website says.