"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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