Words Beyond Bars nonprofit organization uses literature to help Colorado prisoners develop critical thinking skills. Reading is a process of engagement, preparing those who will eventually reenter society and easing life within prison.
PHOTOGRAPHY AS220 Youth’s Photography program trains youth in digital and 35mm photography. Classes are offered at our three teaching sites: AS220, UCAP middle school, and the Rhode Island Training School, the state’s juvenile detention facility.
Travion Blount's punishment may be the harshest in America for a teen who didn't commit murder. The 15-year-old robbed a Norfolk party with two older gang members. He hurt no one. His friends got 10 and 13 years. But as it stands, Blount will die in prison.
The country's biggest for-profit prison companies already pull in hundreds of millions of dollars a year locking up immigrants in federal custody. They stand to pull in even more money if the new laws generate lots of new prisoners.
Dominic Barter has studied the interface between societal and personal change, and the role of conflict since the 1980s. Since 2004, he has worked as consultant and training program director for the Brazilian Restorative Justice pilot projects, in collaboration with the UN Development Program, UNESCO, the Ministry of Justice, Ministry of Education and Special Secretariat for Human Rights. He has focused on developing effective models and training programs for practitioners to address youth crime and its consequences. He supervises implementation with judges, school administrators, police, social services, and youth and community leaders. He also coordinates the Restorative Justice Project for the international Center for Nonviolent Communication.
In At Night I Fly: Images from New Folsom, men at one of California's most maximum security prisons let us see their world. This world is less about dangerous drama and more, as one of them describes, "about isolation. About closure of both the mind and the heart. And the spirit."
This intimate documentary shows prisoners, most serving a life sentence, who refuse such closure and instead work to uncover and express themselves. Their primary tool is making art and the film takes us to New Folsom's Arts in Corrections' room, to prison poetry readings, gospel choirs, blues guitar on the yard, and to many more scenes of creation.
At Night I Fly shows the artistic and human journey these men take, as well as the need that fuels it, and the beauty and pain encountered along the way.
"...They were still boys when they were first swept into the adult criminal-justice system. Charged and convicted as adults, the adjustment of coming home is less about reestablishing stability than in finding new footing without much of a foundation."
As President Obama continued a recent tradition of granting a presidential pardon to a pair of turkeys just ahead of Thanksgiving, critics pointed out that he has shown less mercy toward human beings deserving of clemency.
"Why are marijuana arrests so racially skewed? Such dramatic and widespread racial disparities are clearly not the product of personal prejudice or racism on the part of individual police officers. This is not a problem of training or supervision or rogue squads or bad apples. It’s a systemic problem, a form of institutional racism created and administered by people at the highest levels of law enforcement and government."
As deplorable as conditions in state facilities can be, there is a least hope of accountability through political action, governmental oversight and citizen advocacy. The state is ultimately beholden to its citizens, even if the connection is hard to see sometimes. Corporations are under no such constraints, and sending kids to their facilities is not only poor policy, it is putting the weakest among us at the mercy of soulless corporations whose only concern is the bottom line.
"One time I kept a single green life alive for a few weeks. I had a grasshopper for a pet. I made a guitar out of milk cartons, and it played quite well. I have done a thousand and one things to replicate ordinary life, but these too are now gone."
The potential for photography to change the lives of the incarcerated, particularly the young prisoners, is significant. Photography education provides all the therapeutic tenets of arts programming, but also develops new skills; visual literacy, computer and digital-darkroom skills, and (of course) the not-too-simple task of mastering the settings on a camera. Photography workshops flex different muscles than painting or writing workshops may. Photography allows storytelling beyond the pen and the paintbrush.