SHIJIAZHUANG－Once, twice, three times, Xu Dongguang practices his lines until he gets them just right. He want this performance to hit home.
"This is the second time I have played the leading role in a play," Xu said. "I put my whole feeling into it."
The play A Letter from Home moves most of the audience to tears.
But Xu is not a regular actor treading the boards for fame. He is an inmate at Luquan Prison in Shijiazhuang, Hebei province.
As part of the country's judicial reform effort, China's prisons have introduced psychotherapy to help correct prisoner behavior and rehabilitate them.
Drama is just one of the therapies being adopted by prisons across the country. Different from traditional psychological interventions, such as counseling and music therapy, drama can help treat a large group of prisoners all at once.
Through drama, prisoners act out situations as a group to perform their own stories, helping them understand and examine their emotions.
Luquan Prison held its first performance in 2016.
Xu said he and the other prisoners were mainly interested in themes of family affection.
"Prisoners were very active when participating in the performance," said Miao Yi, the prison warden.
Prison conditions are changing in China, with mental well-being given more consideration.
"Prisoners have paid a lot of attention to their own mental health in recent years," said Feng Feng, a psychological counselor at the prison. "Dramas work well in the prison."
Feng said that through practice and performance of drama, prisoners are able to review their past experiences, learn the truth and create hope for the future.
Cui Chao, a police officer at the prison, liked writing plays when he was a college student. His talent makes him popular at the prison.
"I wrote a story of a prisoner, Zhang Xiaodong, in July. I invited him to perform in the drama, but he initially refused," Cui said. "After the debut of the play, Zhang asked me to allow him to act himself in it next time."
So far this year, 16 dramas have been performed at Luquan Prison.