Dallas County

‘Create New Beginnings’ Art Program Helps Dallas County Inmates Work Through Issues

On Tuesday afternoon, women in the Dallas County Jail got exposed to the 'art' of doing time. Prison fellowship's "Create New Beginnings" program used art expression to help inmates work through some of the issues that landed them behind bars.

"I've been coming in and out of prison since 1989," Jackie Sides said as she stood before her fellow inmates. "30 years y'all!"

In a two-hour class, the women wrote letters and created mixed-media artwork to express their frustrations, desires and forgiveness.

"What about letting go of bitterness," Martha Ackerman of the Prison Fellowship program asked.

As women wrote letters and began to create art, the tears started to flow.

"I think it releases it from holding us down in a way," Ackerman said. "Especially if it's the first time ever that we've spoken about a past hurt."

Ackerman said 90 percent of incarcerated women have suffered some type of abuse. Of those, 80 percent end up with addiction problems.

"Art is a thing that helps me a lot," Jessica Torres said. Torres came to the Dallas County jail on a parole violation for drug possession. "Not every bad situation has to be something negative. You can always turn something negative into something positive, you know."

One day the inmates in the Dallas County Jail will get out. The goal is to help them be more aware of what put them there, so they don't repeat past mistakes.

"These are all my broken dreams. My hopes for the future," Sides said as she tore a letter she wrote into pieces and arranged them in the shape of a rose. "This time, I got it right, I think."

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