Earnest C. Brooks Correctional Facility – Shakespeare in the Housing Unit

Shakespeare in the Housing Unit logoMichigan Department of Corrections
Muskegeon Heights, MI

On July 3, 2014, Curt L. Tofteland founded the Shakespeare Behind Bars/Michigan Shakespeare in the Housing Unit (SHU) circle at the Earnest C. Brooks Correctional Facility in Muskegon Heights, Michigan. The SBB|MI Shakespeare in the Housing Unit program embraces the mission, vision, and core values of Shakespeare Behind Bars. Level II of the E.C. Brooks Correctional Facility has three separate housing units. Each housing unit accommodates 250 inmates.

Shakespeare in the Housing Unit began in Baldwin Housing Unit as an outgrowth of the SBB|MI program (created February 12, 2011) and the Journeymen program (created April 10, 2014). Inmates in the general population on the E.C. Brooks yard requested the opportunity to participate in the Shakespeare Behind Bars program but could not because the number of participants in the SBB|MI circles are capped at thirty and/or are age specific (Journeymen program for 18-21 year-old inmates). To serve the need, one of the participants in the SBB|MI circle had the idea to create the Shakespeare in the Housing Unit program. Permission was granted by the prison administration.

Josh Ribbens, Facilitator-in-Training, five Senior Mentors and five Mentors from the E.C. Brooks SBB|MI circle and seven Junior Mentors from the Journeymen circle joined Curt to help facilitate the SBB|MI Shakespeare in the Housing Unit circle with twenty-one Level II inmates who lock in the Baldwin Housing Unit. SHU meetings are held in the TV/group room (capacity is capped at 35) each Tuesday and Thursday from 11:00am-12:00pm. Participants in the Shakespeare in the Housing Unit program will explore what it means to be a human being through art, theatre, and the works of William Shakespeare.

Plans are underway to launch an SHU program in each of the remaining Level II housing units in October, 2014.