The New York State Literary Center, The Communication Project, Arts in Education
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Rebuilding Families

Incarceration has significant and long lasting impacts on families. Rochester parents serving sentences of one year or under at Monroe Correctional Facility do not suffer the consequences alone; the children of incarcerated parents often lose contact with their parents and many times visits are rare. Research has shown children of incarcerated parents are more likely to drop out of school, engage in delinquent behavior, and subsequently be incarcerated themselves. 

In 2014, the New York State Literary Center, in partnership with the Office of The Sheriff and the Rochester Broadway Theater League, piloted the successful Rebuilding Families to rebuild and reaffirm the family for newly released parents and to reduce the impact of incarceration for their children through attendance at a Broadway musical. The project was designed to build upon NYSLC's knowledge and experience with arts integrated learning with the incarcerated and the Rochester Broadway Theater League's commitment to community engagement. It was also designed as a model for the incarcerated and their children to connect with Rochester's cultural institutions. 



Albert Abonado's Flower City Yawp Interview with Dale Davis, Founder and Executive Director, NYSLC and readings by inmates in NYSLC's Community Engagement Seminar at Monroe Correctional Facility, February 2, 2017.


Reading James Baldwin



NYSLC was one of the 1st upstate NY arts organizations to send writers into the public schools for 10-day teaching residencies on a regular basis. In the past 37 years, over 350 writers and artists worked with over 35,000 youth and adults in more than 600 different educational settings from rural, suburban, and urban schools, to alternative educational settings, to day treatment, to residential placement, to juvenile justice facilities, to jails and correctional facilities.

Mission Statement


The New York State Literary Center (NYSLC) -- a Rochester, New York area arts education organization -- provides transformative project based learning experiences that foster literacy development, community belonging, collaboration, and dialogue, for those incarcerated.  




Founded by Dale Davis in 1979, the New York State Literary Center (NYSLC) has since 2005 focused on the role of the arts in incarcerated education in Monroe County in a partnership with the Office of the Sheriff, County of Monroe. 

Beginning in 2013, NYSLC's Incarcerated Education Program focused on adults incarcerated for a county year or under at Monroe Correctional Facility. This emphasis grew directly from NYSLC's history, experience, and on going research evidenced in low literacy levels (4th to 6th grade), recidivism, the disconnect from any sense of community, the consequences of incarceration for children, and the lack of information on the effectiveness of short-term arts programs in jails and correctional facilities.

NYSLC's Incarcerated Education Program has three components: The Community Engagement SeminarRebuilding Families, and TheaterThe Community Engagement Seminar participants read, report, discuss, and write on history and issues they identify as important. Readings include poetry, history, identity, first person narratives, studies and research on children of incarcerated parents, the affects of parental incarceration on a child's education, Rochester's Poverty Initiative, college and job-hunting with a criminal record.

Since 2007 Theater, adapted from the writing of inmates with a strong historical component, has been an important part of NYSLC's work with the incarcerated, from the history of Rochester, to the voices of adolescents incarcerated as adults on their own "school to prison pipeline," "Where We Have Been: 1964," to "Reading James Baldwin 2015," performed at MCF in July 2015.

In 2013, NYSLC's experience identified the children of those incarcerated as a community need that was not being met. In a family where a parent is incarcerated the impact on a child is traumatic. The separation causes stress on relationships, emotional and mental strain and financial hardships that can leave a lasting impact on a child's well being, health, behavior, and education. In 2014, NYSLC's Incarcerated Education Program partnered with the Rochester Broadway Theater League in Rebuilding Families, to rebuild and reaffirm the family for incarcerated parents and to reduce the impact of incarceration for their children. 




Notes of Two Rochester Native Sons

The New York State Literary Center’s Community Engagement Seminar

Monroe Correctional Facility

It began to seem that one would have to hold in the mind forever two ideas which seemed to be in opposition. The first idea was acceptance, the acceptance, totally without rancor, of life as it is, and men as they are: in light of this idea, it goes without saying that injustice is commonplace. But this does not mean that one could be complacent, for the second idea was of equal power: that one must never, in one’s own life, accept these injustices as commonplace but must fight them with all one’s strength. This fight begins, however, in the heart and it has now been laid to my charge to keep my own heart free of hatred and despair. This intimation made my heart heavy and, now that my father was irrecoverable, I wished that he had been inside me so that I could have searched his face for the answers which only the future would give me now.

James Baldwin. “Notes of a Native Son.” The Price of The Ticket. New York: St. Martin’s / Marek, 1985.


By Ronald Warnick

A Testament: My Journey

“Through me tell the story”

Homer, The Odyssey, Translated by Robert Fitzgerald

I am reflecting. Many things come into my mind on how history sheds light on today’s Black pain, and it reflects my life.

I, too,

was swallowed whole


the streets


this nightmare repeats.

Black youth continue to be swallowed by the streets. Every night on the Rochester news mothers weep.

They say

Black Lives Matter,


the price is cheap.

On the news every night throughout the world,

Black lives are taken in the streets.

Sometimes I am invisible when I am in plain view.

In my mind

no one, not even me, can see inside.


I cry right before your eyes

and you can’t see a tear trickle down my eyes.

My tears are all inside,

transparent to the physical eye.

I’ve become a master of how to hide,

a broken man, depressed, ready to die.

Look right at me

you can’t see I died right before your very eyes.

You never took a deep look into my eyes.


it’s my pride.

A man is not supposed to cry.

It’s a sign of weakness.

Hell no!

They are not going to see me cry!

I’ll hide my shame and pride from those who see only my outside

with drugs and alcohol.

I will never let you see me cry.

Only when I dig deep inside

is it obvious to me I cannot hide

from myself.

(click here to continue reading)


Interview with Dale Davis, Founder and Executive Director, The New York State Literary Center

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© 2017 New York State Literary Center


The New York State Literary Center
is made possible by the New York State
Council on the Arts with the support of
Governor Andrew Cuomo and the New
York State Legislature.