What do you think of when you hear the word incarceration? Orange Jumpsuits? Black and white stripped clothing? Jail cells? What about art? A man who goes by the name of Alex (no last name) started a forum for incarcerated individuals to display their art on a website for the rest of the world to see. The website, called Art Incarcerated is filled with letters and content produced by people in jail. The whole premise of the website is that “I [Alex] write to people in prison. They write back with stories, lessons, and art.”
Art Incarcerated helps individuals share their stories out to the world. “Art incarcerated’s mission is to help every artist in prison share their story. The people that write in aren’t proud of the crime they’ve committed. But when someone in prison becomes a contributing citizen, everyone benefits.” The benefits that the website is talking about is ones like helping the inmates find an outlet for expression and creativity. It also allows people outside the jail to get a glimpse into these people lives. It humanizes prisoners. Learning a person’s story creates a connection and makes them unique. That way, it is easier to eliminate stigma of criminals and the group mentality that is often associated with inmates as a whole.
Don’t get me wrong, crimes need to be punished but the rehabilitation of these individuals is where we need to erase the preconceived notions. A person trying to change their habits isn’t going to improve if he or she gets put down by the rest of society. Alex, asks these people different questions like about their happiest moments, asking about advice and just letting them express whatever they wish. Many of their answers include anecdotes into their home personal lives and a bit of artwork that they have worked on while in jail.
Things like this website are important. Giving these prisoners a voice outside the confines of a prison cell gives them hope and meaning. Art saves lives. It is therapeutic, it is time consuming, and it involves patience. This website also shows that there is a bit of artist in all of us. Maybe it just takes time, the correct space and positive influences to allow yourself to let your artistic ability emerge.