A social capital perspective on prison theatre and change : a case study at the youth centre, Westville Correctional Facility, Durban.
This dissertation explores the effects of a Prison Theatre project conducted at the Youth Centre at Westville Correctional Centre in 2010. It explores the relationship between change and increased levels of Social Capital that staff and offenders attribute to the performances. The centre houses male offenders between the ages of 18 and 25. The project was of particular interest because it involved offenders, correctional staff and management. The plays were made using a problem-posing methodology that involved the audience in proposing solutions. These were documented and circulated to management, staff, and offenders. The plays addressed three topics. The first topic was chosen by the cast, and the other two topics were chosen by the management. The topics were: Increasing self-esteem in the Youth Centre (Chosen by offenders); No smoking policy (Chosen by management); Sexual assault (Chosen by management). I interviewed the cast, a sample of the audience, and correctional staff and managers. The data was analysed in terms of levels and elements of Social Capital (Putnam, 1995) and included Negative Social Capital. I have not found other examples of research in the field of Prison Theatre that have made use of concepts related to Social Capital to analyse the impact of theatre projects. This research therefore establishes a new area of focus for the field of Prison Theatre. The findings proved that the theatre project was an effective means of increasing communication between members of different gangs and between correctional staff and offenders in a non-threatening manner. This provided opportunities for changes in relations of power and increased problem solving in the correctional environment. As a result two systemic changes occurred. The staff provided feedback on offenders‟ requests and complaints and designated smoking areas were created. The findings demonstrate how notions of Social Capital can explain how theatre affects change in a correctional context because it focuses on social dynamics rather than systemic issues. This is important in a correctional environment where offender‟s ability to effect systemic change is limited.