Theatre in Diversion
Patricia Minton Taylor Theatre-in-Diversion Program
Diversion programs offer an alternative to traditional forms of juvenile justice punishment for young people who commit low level juvenile status offenses, such as excessive truancy, underage drinking, and the violation of curfews. The juvenile courts agree to dismiss these charges if youth voluntarily participate in structured projects and activities.
The Patricia Minton Taylor Theatre-in-Diversion Program is a partnership between Western Kentucky University’s (WKU) Department of Theatre and Dance, WKU’s Department of Sociology, and the Commonwealth of Kentucky’s Administrative Office of the Courts’ (AOC) Department of Family and Juvenile Services.
Professor Carol Jordan (Department of Theatre and Dance) and Professor Jerry Daday (Department of Sociology) work with Court Designated Workers (CDW) from Warren County and WKU students to offer a theatre-based diversion program for at risk youth in the community. The intent of the program is to give WKU Theatre and Sociology students the opportunity to work with at risk youth from the community who have committed a low level juvenile offense, and to give these at risk youth the opportunity to build pro-social relationships with family, peers, teachers and members of the community, develop critical thinking and communication skills, and reduce delinquent behavior.
Each spring semester approximately 5-7 WKU students work with 10-15 diverted youth two or three days a week on the campus of WKU. The youth learn the basics of improv, staging, script writing, scene work, and acting, with activities culminating in a showcase performance written and performed by the youth participants under the direction of the WKU students.
A total of 51 youth from Warren County have participated in the Patricia Minton Taylor Theatre-in-Diversion program at WKU since the spring semester of 2012.
Over this period of time, we have conducted structured interviews with nearly all of these youth participants and many of their legal guardians to assess the overall effectiveness of the program and to measure how the program has impacted the youth’s relationships with parents, teachers, siblings, and peers. We have also measured the ways in which the program has impacted their lives personally through the development of interpersonal, teaming and communication skills.
This research has yielded findings showing the positive impact of arts-based programming within the juvenile justice system. Overall, our research highlights the important impact arts based diversion programs have on reducing recidivism and building pro-social outcomes.