“When I first visited California State Prison, Lancaster, what I saw there were not prisoners, but cages filled of hundreds of lights – lights of knowledge, wisdom, compassion, love, insight and remorse. It was as if hundreds of candles had been locked in a distant closet, or that the stars had been hidden behind the blanket of the desert night, denying us the light that they had to shine upon the world.”
Dr. Bidhan Chandra Roy, Founder of Words Uncaged
Dr. Bidhan Chandra Roy is the founder of Words Uncaged, a platform for the incarcerated to explore creativity through art, narrative therapy, and writing to engage with the public, through book publishing, art exhibits and digital media. Words Uncaged is the result of Dr. Roy’s experience as the faculty director of California State University, Los Angeles Bachelor of Arts program. He started the first in-prison degree program at Los Angeles County Prison that has now expanded to Lancaster State Prison, Mule Creek State Prison, and CMC Prison, all in California.
Dr. Roy says, “Since 2015, Words Uncaged has had meaningful and sustained positive impact on the culture of each prison yard where programming has been offered. Through the simple application of hope, community and a platform to tell - and amplify - authentic stories, we have witnessed violence drop significantly. Our members graduate college, have received commutations, and live lives filled with dignity and new found hope. To date, not a single Words Uncaged community member has returned to prison since their release.”
Join Dr. Roy and Union Institute & University Ph.D. faculty, Dr. Anu Mitra and Dr. Diane Allerdyce, in imagining an alternative to mass incarceration in the United States. They will discuss new pedagogical approaches to teaching in prison and the benefit of empowering people currently and formerly incarcerated through art, education, and community to shift the narratives that surround mass incarceration.
Faculty Director of California State University, Los Angeles B.A. program, Dr. Roy is founder of the first in-prison degree program at Los Angeles County Prison that has now expanded to Lancaster State Prison, Mule Creek State Prison, and CMC Prison.
Born in England, Dr. Roy received his Ph.D. from Goldsmiths College, University of London. Trained in postcolonial studies and the twentieth-century British novel, he has published articles and book chapters on Hanif Kureishi, Muslim identity and the novel, literary representations of South Asian ethnicity, Buddhism and literature, Christopher Isherwood’s A Single Man, as well as the travel writing of V.S. Naipaul. His recently published monograph is titled, A Passage To Globalism: Globalization and the Negotiation of Identities in South Asian Diasporic Fiction in Britain.
In addition to his faculty role at California State University, Los Angeles, Dr. Roy is also the faculty director of CSULA's BA program at Lancaster State Prison and the Words Uncaged and Paws For Life programs at Lancaster State Prison, Mule Creek State Prison, and CMC Prison. These programs provide platforms for men sentenced to life sentences in California prisons to dialogue and critically engage with the world beyond the prison walls. The project offers opportunities for rethinking who incarcerated men are, exploring our common humanity, as well as imagining alternatives to the current prison industrial complex in the United States. There are a number of components of these projects, all of which offer opportunities for CSULA student involvement. These include; The Words Uncaged literary journal, the Words Uncaged Working Group (WWG) in Prison Pedagogy & Cultural Representation, the Words Uncaged Prison Art and Storying exhibitions, the Words Uncaged website, the prison writing library archive, and social media presence. (Source: California State University, Los Angeles)
State of Mind
Artwork created by Sadiqu Saibu
Anu M. Mitra has worked as an administrator and faculty member at the Union Institute & University since 1988. Her areas of expertise are museum studies, visual culture, design thinking, arts-based practices, art, and writing and she is the facilitator of the Museum Studies and Design Thinking Certificate programs. Dr. Mitra is a Fulbright Specialist and has published extensively in journals and anthologies. In 2021, she served as a fellow at Natalie Goldberg’s The Way of Writing: Opening the Practice of Wild Mind retreat. Her writing, research and workshops linking art and social justice, and art and leadership development have been offered at many forums, including the J. Paul Getty Museum in Los Angeles, the University of Cincinnati Medical School, and to doctoral candidates at Union Institute & University. She has presented on several aspects of her work, most recently at the Art of Management and Organizations, the International Leadership Association, and the European Council on Educational Research, among others.
Dr. Mitra serves on the boards of the Cincinnati Art Museum, the Ohio Advisory Board of the National Museum for Women in the Arts, and Cincinnati Ballet. She holds a M.A. and Ph.D. from the University of Rochester.
Diane Allerdyce, Ph.D., is Chair and Faculty of the Humanities & Culture (HMS) major of the Ph.D. program in Interdisciplinary Studies at Union Institute & University, where she has taught since 2008. She is also the co-founder of the Florida-based non-profit organization, Center for Education, Training & Holistic Approaches, Inc. (CETHA), which operates the Toussaint L’Ouverture High School for Arts & Social Justice in Delray Beach, Florida. She holds a Ph.D. in English from the University of Florida. Diane is the author of a scholarly book, “Anaïs Nin and the Remaking of Self: Gender, Modernism, and Narrative Identity” (University of Northern Illinois, 1998). She has published articles, essays, book reviews, and poems in local, national, and international journals. Her poetry chapbook, “Whatever It Is I Was Giving Up,” won the 2007 Red Wheel Barrow Prize by Pudding House Publications.
Dr. Allerdyce received the NAPT Distinguished Service Award in 2007, the NAPT Outstanding Achievement Award in 2009, and the Jennifer Bosveld Poetry and Social Justice Award in 2015. In addition to Lacanian psychoanalytic theory, gender studies, feminism, and poetry, her research interests include international educational outreach efforts, particularly in Haiti, where she has authored and facilitates a support program for teachers.
Words Uncaged was founded by Dr. Bidhan Chandra Roy. He is faculty director of California State University, Los Angeles B.A. program. He started the first in-prison degree program at Los Angeles County Prison that has now expanded to Lancaster State Prison, Mule Creek State Prison, and CMC Prison.
Below are resources to become familiar with the program and the impact it is having on the incarcerated.
Learn how the program is changing lives in “Pursuing a Bachelor’s Behind Bars – Students become higher-education advocates in Cal State LA’s prison B.A. program” at this link.
Visit the Words Uncaged website to read writings and view artworks at this link.
Read “How Museums Can Amplify Incarcerated Voices” sponsored by the Fowler Museum’s “Share the Mic: Incarcerated Arts” public program discussion at this link.
Watch the “Cal State LA Prison Graduation Initiative” at this link.