The Voice Project is a successful writing and theatre  program for incarcerated women and adolescents. Since 2001, this therapeutic theater program has offered incarcerated women an educational theatre and  writing program that helps inmates develop and strengthen social skills; a fuller sense of  creative expression; greater self and community awareness; tolerance of differences; ability to  resolve conflicts; and higher self-esteem.

About The Voice Project:

What is the Voice Project? 

The Voice Project was founded as a poetry workshop in 2001 by Lauren Cardwell, who wanted to create a safe space for inmates to develop appropriate means of expression, while also  fostering a safe environment for society's outcasts to be recognized as humans who are valued.

The Voice Project offers theatre and playwriting workshops to 25-50 inmates each semester at  a nearby Women’s Correctional Facility for a total of approximately 60 workshop hours per semester. 


Why is the Voice Project Important?

 In addition to providing a creative and educational forum for self-expression, the classes promote positive emotional and behavioral modification in the following ways: 

1. The inmates who participate in the Voice Project are required to be infraction-free for 6 months to take the class, and must remain infraction-free for the duration of the  program (6 months). This is an incentive to encourage appropriate behaviors by inmates. 

2. Participants engage in role-playing exercises that explore responsible ways to respond to conflict. 

3. Participants report increased levels of tolerance, as they are expected to treat each other  respectfully within the group. In addition, participants are encouraged by each other to take responsibility for their own actions in and out of the group. 

4. Participants offer social modeling for appropriate behavioral responses for other inmates who are not directly involved in the Voice Project.

Why is it important to reach out to inmates?

Women are 3 times as likely to go to prison as they were in 1986 and the number of women arrested for violent crimes has increased by 32% since 1996. Evidence shows that most of the women who are committing crimes are unemployed, uneducated, and have a history of substance abuse. In short, they are marginalized by society. Imprisonment only increases this marginalization. In addition to this, women’s prisons in Virginia have a lack of programming available to inmates. Statistics show that inmates who engage in programming engage in fewer violent acts during their incarceration. 

In the past 7 years the enrollment of the Voice Project has reached full capacity (40 students/year) as more and more inmates recognize the importance of having a forum for creative expression. All of the students who are currently in the program have remained infraction free, and several new members have claimed that their desire to join the project has been a key motivator for improving their behavior.

How can I help?

You can volunteer for the Voice Project as an intern or community volunteer by filling out this form. 

Name *

Or you can support the Voice project by donating pencils, pens, notebook paper, and folders to the women in our workshops. 

Finally, you can donate to Offstage Theater/The Voice Project by clicking below: