Cellblock Visions - prison art in america
prison art in america - Phyllis Kornfield

Criminal Justice and the Arts, cont.

Will Ursprung, Art Therapist ATR-BC, State Correctional Institution at Graterford, PA
"The incarcerated artist’s need to synthesize new artistic materials in response to a desolate , restrictive and often debilitating environment speaks to the wonders of creative expression and the resiliency of the human spirit against major odds. The art is important work. Not frivolous as with the hobbyist or Sunday painter, but as a coping mechanism for survival."

Doug Kulmacz, Director of Volunteer Services, State of Connecticut Department of Corrections
"Our prison arts program [generously made possible by the Community Partners in Action of Hartford] has been a partner in reducing inmate idle time and unlocking the creative potential of offenders for over two decades. I constantly find wardens and correctional adminisrators who support and are delighted with the results of offender art programs. The value of our prorams can be witnessed at one of five annual exhibitions across our small state. We also produce posters and a journal of Arts in Corrections, reaching far more people with images and ideas from offenders. Other inmate artwork, including an exhibit entitled "Inmate Art Against Drugs" courses through public schools, libraries, and is in demand for public viewing nearly continuously."

Kate DeCou, Assistant Deputy Superintendant, In charge of women
"Inmates are a group of individuals who come to jail with many life disadvantages. Their early life challenges have resulted in deficits of learning and in verbal and written communication skills. This is especially so of the female population which is my area of specialty. Our research indicates that over 70% of female offenders have experienced serious and chronic sexual abuse from childhood on. This has resulted in apparent psychological damage in terms of confidence and self-esteem. Our women strongly respond to artistic forms of expression. Involving the women with these opportunities in jail, especially with guidance, is both uplifting for the inmates and also an effective management tool. The inmates almost always follow up after classes in their cells or day areas with homework or practice. They show staff their products with pride."

Walter Currier, Correctional Officer
"Most inmates start the program believing they have little or no talent in art, but are soon creating beautiful images on paper they never imagined they could do. I believe it gives them confidence in themselves to tackle some of the problems that got them here."

Correctional Education Bulletin
"Prison arts programs reduces recividism, violence. The International Correctional Arts Network is trying to show that creativity can survive behind bars and provide a therapeutic outlet for inmates. The organization’s members hail from around the globe. According to a study by the California Department of Corrections, over 70% of inmates completing a six-month art program have not returned to prison after their release. Also revealed - an 80% reduction in violent and behavior problems among inmates enrolled in an art program."

National Center for Conflict Resolution Education in the Arts
"The arts are a natural forum for teaching, modeling, and using conflict resolution (CR) processes. CR skills can provide tools for creating more peaceable environments within arts programs, and families, schools and communities. Recognizing the the natural affinity between CR education and the arts, the NEA and the office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention collaborated in developing the Partnership for Conflict Resolution Education in the Arts."

Steven Ainsworth, Inmate
"Most people choose art because they’ve got to have some sort of positive activity to channel their energy while they’re locked up. Painting kept me from hurting a whole bunch of people. I know the old saying ‘idle hands soon find mischief’ is true."

T .R., former inmate
"They’re scared, these kids that come in here, scared they’re gonna get beat up, so they sit down and do these drawings so they can say, ‘See, this is what I do.’ It’s a way to show your interest and friendliness to other inmates. There’s a guy across the hall who says to me, ‘Hey, do you want to see my pictures?’ and I say ‘Yes, and I show him mine, and we get together that way."

Charles Mosby, Inmate
"If I could do a painting and it makes just one person smile, if only for three seconds, then I would be very happy. Sometimes I do a statement painting that can’t make people smile, they have no humor in them at all. I am a wiser person now. I no longer run from goodness. I showed the world how evil I can be and now I want to show the goodness in me. This goodness is not something that came to me, it was always in me and I drowned it with alcohol. I thank god that there are good people in this world who care about other human beings. Thank you Jesus. There’s times I’m under a lot of aggravation and I feel like, you know, hitting somebody, but instead I can sit there and draw something, and while I’m drawing I can let my mind flow."

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Cell Block Visions: Prison Art in America
Email: phylkorn10@gmail.com