Prison Project - The Actors' Gang
Of the original 25 men that joined TAGPP during the first year at Avenal State Prison, 18 had Life sentences. 17 of the 18 have gone before the Board of Prison Terms and have been found suitable for release and are freed. 22 of the original 25 are now home.
Since 2006, The Actors’ Gang Prison Project provides theater arts programming in prisons and reentry facilities. Our mission is to establish a supportive community, offer participants tools for recognizing and managing their emotions, and create systemic change by centering the voices of those who have been system-impacted.
Through a highly physical and stylized form of theater practice, The Prison Project invites vulnerability, breaks down barriers, recognizes humanity, and supports human connections. As a result, the program shifts prison culture and the societal conversation about mass incarceration.
The Actors’ Gang Prison Project is a partnership of participants, alumni, teaching artists and staff that provides a highly physical and emotional ensemble theater technique to incarcerated adults and youth and those in reentry programs in an effort to develop the emotional skills necessary to thrive in any environment and community.
"T his class really gives the tools to change. I’ve been wanting to change for a while and a lot of guys in here want to change, but we don’t have the tools. It’s like we are standing on the ground waiting to find a way to get on the roof and then here you guys come with a ladder." -California Institution for Men Participant
A recent study shows 77% Employment Rate for The Actors’ Gang Reentry Program participants.
After working inside California state prison for almost a decade, we recognized the need for the reach-in rehabilitation process to continue beyond one’s sentence end date and began a weekly reentry program, The Actors’ Gang Reentry Project (TAGRP) for men at Walden House/Health Right 360 in Los Angeles. This partnership provides a welcoming space for new participants and has given qualified TAG Prison Project participants at the end of their sentence a residence where they have the opportunity to continue programming as they transition from prison to their community. In 2020, TAGRP expanded by partnering with the Anti-Recidivism Coalition to serve men and women returning home.
2022 - California spends $18,788 per year per student on public education. Los Angeles County Probation spends $1,000,000 per year to incarcerate one youth, quadruple the amount it cost to get a bachelor’s degree at USC.
The Actors’ Gang Youth Project works to provide theater arts programming for youth in the Los Angeles County juvenile justice system and in our communities. A member of the Arts for Healing and Justice Network (AHJN), we work to empower young people, create pathways for success, and catalyze systemic change. In partnership with AHJN, we are integrating arts as an effective sentencing alternative, a critical intervention to address trauma for youth who are experiencing incarceration, and a strategy for successful reentry.
Alumni Advocacy Project
When our participants began to return home, we launched The Actors’ Gang Alumni Advocacy Project in 2018. This network serves as a support system and platform for individuals who want to continue training with the company and become Teaching Artists. We envision the formerly justice-involved participants as the leaders of TAG Prison Project, and focus on providing an avenue for upward mobility with meaningful employment as Alumni Teaching Artists. We currently have 56 formerly incarcerated participants in the Alumni Advocacy Project, and 17 of them are working with us as Teaching Artists.
All of our former participants are encouraged to advocate, not only on behalf of The Prison Project, but also for Arts in Corrections, Rehabilitation, and reform of the criminal legal system
Comedia Del Arte Tecate
In 2022 The Actors’ Gang Prison Project partnered with Ezequiel Gonzales Lemus to implement our first bi-national program, Comedia del Arte Tecate, in Tecate, Baja California, Mexico. Ezequiel participated in the Prison Project program at California Institution for Men and was a pioneer teaching artist and facilitator for seven years. He now oversees the program in Tecate, which is open to the general public. Thirty people have taken the program, and he has trained seven as facilitators to take the program to local schools, rehabilitation centers, and the Mexican penal system.