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Dostoevsky Behind Bars Named Award Finalist
Date: July 27, 2015 02:13PM

Dostoevsky Behind Bars Named Award Finalist

The documentary Dostoevsky Behind Bars which featured Oakhill Correctional Institution (Wisconsin) was recently named a 2015 Media for a Just Society Award Finalist by the National Council on Crime and Delinquency (NCCD).

The NCCD’s Media for a Just Society Awards ( are the only awards designed to provide national recognition of media whose work furthers public understanding of social justice issues. The 2015 Media for a Just Society Awards ceremony will take place at the SFJAZZ Center in San Francisco on November 12, 2015. The event is attended by a diverse array of guests from national foundations and corporations, the legal community, media, the tech sector, government agencies, and community-based agencies.

Dostoevsky Behind Bars features educators in the UW Madison Slavic Languages and Literature Department who teach the inmate students about World Literature. The project built upon on a half a decade of successful not-for-credit literature and creative writing classes facilitated by undergraduate students and community volunteers. Inmate participation in the eight week course is strictly voluntary.

The great nineteenth-century Russian author, Fyodor Dostoevsky, spent four years in a Siberian prison camp. Although he had already published a highly-acclaimed story titled "Poor Folk" before his arrest, he developed his mature voice and many of the themes of his later novels while incarcerated.

The documentary was produced, directed, and edited by Marc Kornblatt, a fourth grade teacher at Lincoln Elementary School who started visiting the inmates at Oakhill as a volunteer in the literature class. The experience inspired him to make Dostoevsky Behind Bars with a budget of approximately $9,000, most of which was covered by foundations and grants. William Roach was the cinematographer. He is a videographer for ESPN and who provides stunning and invaluable footage in the documentary.

Institution staff collaborated with Marc Kornblatt of Refuge Films beginning in 2013 to create the documentary of inmates involved in the UW Literature program. Over the course of several months, Kornblatt followed the World Literature and Fiction Reading group filming the documentary about how the UW Slavic Department became involved in educational programming at Oakhill. The documentary captures the complexity of what takes place from all participant’s perspectives including the administration, whose objectives are often different from the volunteers', the academic involvement of Professor Judith Kornblatt who secured the grant, the inspirational viewpoints of the inmates, and that of the volunteer graduate students who struggle to overcome the particular challenges they face in teaching in the correctional setting.

The film has been featured in several venues in 2014 to include Louisville’s International Festival of Film, the Philadelphia Independent Film Festival, and was presented Wisconsin Film Festival’s Golden Badger Award.

The 53 minute film has also been featured on the Public Television program Director’s Cut. The film reflects very positively on the institution and the literature program alike.

Is there another Dostoevsky among the inmates? Perhaps. Regardless, it has become abundantly clear through the Oakhill volunteer classes that the exposure to this kind of learning is mutually beneficial for both the teachers and the students. All become more humanized, humane, able to express themselves, and tolerant of others.
taken from DOC Intranet Website

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