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Special Theater Event / Dante Behind Bars: Incarcerated Men Re-imagine “The Divine Comedy”

  • Marquand Chapel 409 Prospect Street New Haven, CT, 06511 United States (map)
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Incarcerated Men Re-imagine “The Divine Comedy”

Fragments of Dante’s poem adapted by men in prison and performed by the students in Professor Ron Jenkins’ course “Sacred Texts and Social Justice.”

A group of incarcerated men at the MacDougall-Walker Correctional Institution have spent the last few months re-imagining Dante’s journey from hell to paradise as it might apply to their own life journeys. They have collaborated with Yale students on writing theatrical adaptations of fragments from Dante’s “Divine Comedy” that will be performed in New Haven. The performance will be followed by a moderated discussion about mass incarceration, transformation, and the arts.

Special Guests: Maria Pirro, State School Principal of MacDougall-Walker Correctional Institution; and Scott Semple, Commissioner of the Connecticut Department of Corrections


Maria Pirro is the school principal at the MacDougall Walker Correctional Institution. Throughout her 15 years with the Connecticut Department of Correction, Unified School District #1, she has made it her mission to bring programs to the incarcerated population that promote academic, social, emotional, and moral growth. Pirro believes all students can learn, be successful, and excel. In order to thrive in a society of change and growth, each student must achieve these goals: be a creative problem solver, a lifelong learner, and an effective communicator. The unifying factor among these goals is the personal growth of the student.  This philosophy, and the belief in creating learning conditions in which students experience, at the very least, small victories on a daily basis, is what has drawn Pirro to integrating “Dante Behind Bars” into the programs at schools throughout her school district. 

Appointed Commissioner of the Connecticut Department of Correction in January 2015 by Governor Dannel P. Malloy, Scott Semple has been working with the DOC since 1988 in progressively more responsible roles. In 2013 he became Deputy Commissioner of Operations and Rehabilitative Services. In announcing the appointment, Malloy cited Semple’s extensive experience and knowledge of the inner workings of the DOC and his involvement in enhancing the model of supervision and treatment for the mental health population.