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I am a mommy, scribe, and middle-school English teacher. I am trying to cope with being separated from my beloved. DoUWantMore? email me: theprisonerswife@gmail.com

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Solitary Art

Posted by the prisoner's wife On 10:15 AM
Solitary Art

"On Friday night, more than 500 people had jammed into a gallery in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico, to assess 25 of Donny Johnson's small, intense works. There was sangria, as well as big bowls of M&M's. By evening's end, six of the postcard paintings had sold, for $500 each.

"They are made with these chocolate pigments," said Adolfo Caballero, an owner of the gallery. "He has really created a new kind of technique, because he doesn't have access to conventional materials."

Most prison art, the kind created in crafts classes and sold in gift shops, tends toward kitsch and caricature. But there are no classes or art supplies where Mr. Johnson is held, and his powerful, largely abstract paintings are something different. They reflect the sensory deprivation and diminished depth perception of someone held in a windowless cell for almost two decades." (read entire article)

these types of stories always bring up interesting debates: should prisoners have rights?

there are a lot of people who believe that inmates shouldn't be allowed to do anything, no school, no social programs, no tv. i'm sure you've heard the argument before: "they're in prison, not on vacation." but then there is the other side that insists that inmates be able to better themselves--get an education, learn a trade, and yes, watch a little TV--especially if they will be released back into society.

i never really thought much about this debate until beloved became locked up. sure, there were a few people in my family who had been to prison, but they were always "the bad cousins" of the family. it was expected. they were never into school, never wanted to go to college, never really held a job; so i guess i wrote them off as career criminals who would forever cycle in and out of the system because they couldn't give up the block. but now, as beloved waits in jail all sorts of questions have run through my mind.

how will he be viewed when he gets out?
will he be able to get a job?
if he has to go to prison, will he be able to take classes while he's in?
what will people think of me? what will they say about our son?

before beloved got locked up he was in college working toward a degree in computer programming, now, after waiting for almost a year for trial, he is unable to take any college courses, unable to advance his education, he is basically wasting a year of his life. stuck on pause, unable to move forward. each day we talk i can hear more and more frustration in his voice. sometimes he apologizes to me, to our son, for putting us through this. sometimes he says he would understand if i left him. and other times he is angry...at everything.

although prison is a place of punishment, it can also be a place for transformation, hence the name "department of correction". in recent studies that measured the effects of educational programs at prisons, it was found that those who completed an educational program while incarcerated were less like to return to prison.

"A study at Folsom Prison in California showed that none of the inmates who earned a bachelor's degree recidivated, compared with the 55% recidivism rate of the rest of the inmates released. A study authored by female inmates at New York's Bedford Hills Correctional Facility indicates that women who attended college while incarcerated recidivated at a rate of 7.7% as opposed to the 29.9% return rate of women who did not attend. Post-secondary education in prison can help reduce crime on the street" (read entire article)

there is definitely a stigma attached to those who have been to prison, as well as those who have supported their love one through prison. and it's not ok. with so many of our loved ones locked up, we are all affected and shouldn't be made to feel like social outcasts. if we commit to educating those who seek it, providing job placement and housing support to those that are willing to turn their lives around, our country would be much better off. and maybe, just maybe we wouldn't have so many of our fathers, mothers, sisters, brothers, and daughters behind the walls.

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12 Response to 'Solitary Art'

  1. Ananda Said,
    http://theprisonerswife.blogspot.com/2006/07/solitary-art.html?showComment=1153860480000#c115386052886722147'> Tuesday, July 25, 2006 1:48:00 PM

    brava sistalove. thanks for sharing this incredible post. i think prisoners should have every opportunity to better themselves. most times, they have not had access, support, consistency, and discpline to take advantage of learning experiences. why not offer it to our brothaloves and sistaloves... afterall , we are all human and have a right to live fully as we were made ...divine beings being divine... paz, ananda


  2. Xavier Said,
    http://theprisonerswife.blogspot.com/2006/07/solitary-art.html?showComment=1153878300000#c115387831695114537'> Tuesday, July 25, 2006 6:45:00 PM

    Damn, you hit me between the eyes with the first three paragraphs of this post (the article.) There is absolutely no doubt that education should be made available to prisoners who want it. Why this is even a debate several centuries into this grand experiment we call democracy boggles the mind and chills the soul. Punishment? Absolutely! We are to pay our debts to society. Nonetheless, rehabilitation has as clear a definition as correction.


  3. Aly Cat 121 Said,
    http://theprisonerswife.blogspot.com/2006/07/solitary-art.html?showComment=1153944660000#c115394470854026967'> Wednesday, July 26, 2006 1:11:00 PM

    dayum that's deep. I really don't believe the people who build and profit off prisons want the "prisoners' to rehabilitate or be corrected cuz if they did the system wouldn't be so dayum f*cked up. Prison is modern day slave labor, period. But I"m sure you don't want to hear that. I'm glad the people on "lock down" can find some type of escape so that they are not broken spiritually.


  4. Stephen Bess Said,
    http://theprisonerswife.blogspot.com/2006/07/solitary-art.html?showComment=1154006100000#c115400615395235847'> Thursday, July 27, 2006 6:15:00 AM

    There was something on the news this morning concerning the crime here in DC. They were taking steps to improve the quality of life here in DC and prevent crime. One of the things that they suggested was a 10pm curfew for teens. I suppose this would keep black and latino teenagers off the streets and keep our tourist safe. Oh yeah, I forgot to mention that this wasn't a big concern until 8 tourist were robbed and assaulted. It's never a problem as long as "they" are just killing themselves. Also, they are now talking about combining the different police agencies here in DC to help (ATF, Park Police, Capital Police). It's enough to make a black man suspicious. By the way, great post!


  5. http://theprisonerswife.blogspot.com/2006/07/solitary-art.html?showComment=1154031420000#c115403147604346783'> Thursday, July 27, 2006 1:17:00 PM

    ananda: i agree, support, consistency,and discpline are very much needed.

    Xavier: i'm glad you could relate to the post.

    aly cat: yeah, it's all about cheap labor. beloved wanted to get a job and he said he would make about $10 a week. i wanted to throw the phone down! i was like....ARE YOU SERIOUS? craziness. i don't understand how treating people like they are less than people helps anything at all.

    bless: true true. nobody cares about black folks or latino folks kills each other. they only care when it makes us (america) look bad to the world. DC has BEEEEN wylin out for the longest (did u see the doc, "Thug Life in DC?). it's funny that they are JUST NOW trying to "clean it up".


  6. http://theprisonerswife.blogspot.com/2006/07/solitary-art.html?showComment=1154044680000#c115404472457626773'> Thursday, July 27, 2006 4:58:00 PM

    hi your a daughter and im positively sure you will love my blog being daughter daily its a place for daughters to post lessons experiences laughs all in the life of being daughter daily also theres plenty of tips websites and advice for any one being a daughter daily so pleez check us out. We're a sister site to you fav Being Mama Daily Blog.
    P.S. Your Blog is positively great!!


  7. Stephen Bess Said,
    http://theprisonerswife.blogspot.com/2006/07/solitary-art.html?showComment=1154117760000#c115411779169781263'> Friday, July 28, 2006 1:16:00 PM



  8. http://theprisonerswife.blogspot.com/2006/07/solitary-art.html?showComment=1154187180000#c115418721005635058'> Saturday, July 29, 2006 8:33:00 AM

    I think that prisoners should be able to watch tv, learn a trade, attend church services, get an education while in prison!!! I think its important that in a correctional facility, that prisoners are allowed to CORRECT their behavior by reinforcing positive behavior like learning and bettering themselves so that when they are released they have a better chance of being productive adults. I also think that prisoners should go through some kind of counseling program while in prison. I've had quite a few family members in prison and it seems like once you go to prison, its easier to go back again. So where does this stop? When does it get to the point where prisons are no longer "holding cells" but places where people with not-so-good behavior can be corrected and learn how to live in a civil society as productive adults. That's how it should be and I'm sure that if we invested this type of time, money and energy into prisoners that there would be less prisoners in correctional facilities.


  9. bygpowis Said,
    http://theprisonerswife.blogspot.com/2006/07/solitary-art.html?showComment=1154313840000#c115431386046155477'> Sunday, July 30, 2006 7:44:00 PM

    mines is one of those black families without any immediate members connected to the penal system in any way. caribbean folks are petrified about being deported anyway so i guess we keep in quiet in the u.s. i've always wondered about that sentence: "we all know someone who is in..." i don't. don't know if that doesn't make me black enough. or maybe there's something about the sentence(s). my father was held up in barbados when i was five or six. embarrassed me. still adored the man once he returned. gotta keep loving no matter. and for those who ask for help inside, provide it to them. i agree wholeheartedly... who gets the money from the painting the priosoner sells?


  10. http://theprisonerswife.blogspot.com/2006/07/solitary-art.html?showComment=1154363400000#c115436343590842487'> Monday, July 31, 2006 9:30:00 AM

    byg: according to the article he is donating it to some org that takes assists the children of prisoners in Pelican Bay (the prison he's in).

    also...not knowing someone who's ever gone to jail doesn't make you any less black, just make you blessed. not having to deal with these types of issues. i know A LOT of carribbean folk who've been on the wrong side of the law, but just haven't gotten caught up yet. i also know quite a few who are here w/o papers because of things that went on back home or here. deportion is an issue. it's an issue for Beloved and I because he's not a citizen.


  11. http://theprisonerswife.blogspot.com/2006/07/solitary-art.html?showComment=1154455140000#c115445519089682391'> Tuesday, August 01, 2006 10:59:00 AM

    My love works for about a dollar a day. He feels like a slave, but has no choice, they are forced to do some form of labor. There are so many intelligent young men and women trapped in the system, unfortunately, they aren't able to utilize their skills and abilities.


  12. http://theprisonerswife.blogspot.com/2006/07/solitary-art.html?showComment=1154569080000#c115456911464416440'> Wednesday, August 02, 2006 6:38:00 PM

    soul sista: isn't it frustrating? thank you for commenting. i hope you come back & share your experiences with us. i tried going to your blog but maybe you haven't posted yet. let me know when you do. bless.