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July 15, 2021

Daily News Lesson: A formerly incarcerated artist’s take on rehabilitation through art

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Directions: Read the summary, watch the video and answer the discussion questions below. To view the full video and transcript, click here

Summary: John Zoccoli is a visual artist who spent 25 years in prison until his release in June 2020. During his incarceration, he became involved in a program called Rehabilitation Through The Arts (RTA) — which he says transformed his life. Tonight, he gives us his Brief But Spectacular take on art and healing. It’s part of our arts and culture series, CANVAS.

Discussion questions: 

Five Facts: 

  • Who is John Zocoli?
  • Why was he sentenced to 25 years in prison? 
  • What is RTA? 
  • How does RTA help inmates? 
  • What sort of skills do inmates learn in the program? 

Focus questions:

  • For Mr. Zoccoli, the arts was the way in which he learned life skills and responsibilities. What are some of the activities in your life that indirectly might have taught you some life skills and lessons? Are there any activities you think of besides the arts that could be used to teach these lessons? 

Media literacy: 

  • This piece is telling the story of a single person, how visually did the producers decide to do this? What different ways of explaining John Zoccoli’s story did they take? 

Dig Deeper: 

  • To see Mr. Zoccoli’s art, visit his website
  • To learn more about life after incarceration  see this story and Extra’s series of lessons based on the NewsHour series Searching for Justice.
  • To learn more about RTA and how it works, see their website
  • To learn more about different ways prisons are now approaching rehabilitation, see this video.

This Daily News Lesson was written by EXTRA intern Cecilia Curran and EXTRA’s Victoria Pasquantonio. Curran is a sophomore at Amherst College.

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