Utah Department of Corrections

2017 rec therapy

Inmates at the Olympus Facility at the Utah State Prison are participating in a new recreational therapy that provides a chance to create and present art and music in a group setting. The recreation therapy program at Olympus, the prison’s mental health facility, offers a variety of courses to the inmates including classes in drawing, painting, music and creative writing.

Every eight weeks inmates sign up for and participate in classes that build and teach new skills. Currently, inmates teach drawing and painting. Recreational therapist Heidi Hill teaches music and writing classes.

At the end of each of the four eight-week courses, all of the classes meet together for an end of semester Creative and Expressive Arts Showcase Group.  The inmates discuss and show their final projects and talk about what they learned. The presentations start with each inmate standing up, saying their name, which class they were in, and then showing what they learned or created.

“I’m proud and excited to have started a new program for inmates,” said Hill, who started at the facility in early 2017. “This ‘Creative and Expressive Arts Showcase Group’ helps them learn how to interact constructively with each other while sharing what they learned in the courses.”

After the discussion, which lasts around 30 minutes, the inmates can stay in the unit's shared dayroom and relax. Inmates also have the chance to earn a perfect attendance certificate during the end of the semester therapy class.

These programs not only serve the inmates by helping them gain skills needed to successfully transition back into the community once they have served their sentence. They also serve the public by giving offenders education, skills and different ways to cope with troubles, all of which help increase chances of success following release.

“Recreational therapy classes not only teach the named skill, they also provide a therapeutic outlet,” says Hill. “In these creative and expressive art classes, inmates have to opportunity to build social skills such as communication and working with others.

The weekly classes are first-come first-served. The type of class offered is rotated to ensure everyone has an opportunity to participate and learn. The size of the classes are limited to eight inmates. Hill hopes the Creative and Expressive Arts Showcase Group allows inmates to work toward a goal while bettering themselves, building confidence and creating good-natured relationships with other inmates.

The Olympus Facility houses about 130 inmates who are generally experiencing more severe mental illness that typically require psychotropic medications and frequent services from mental-health staff. The facility is located at the Utah State Prison in Draper.

-May 25, 2017