The Prison Arts Coalition is an awesome national network of people making art and facilitating the making of art in and around the American prison system. PAC provides support and guidance to people who are interested in developing prison arts programs or people looking to support incarcerated and formerly incarcerated artists. This week we interviewed Wendy Jason and Becky Mer, PAC’s managers, on the organization’s roots, the biggest issues they are tackling, and more:
Juvenile In Justice: How did the Prison Arts Coalition get started?
Prison Arts Coalition: At various prison arts gatherings, practitioners often talked about the need for a central place with information and, if possible, exchange. At a Critical Resistance conference in Oakland in 2008, a few former Prison Creative Arts Project students and other practitioners committed to starting a website. For the first year or so, rotating facilitators acted as administrators of … Read More »
A youth prison in Maryland where many of the cells, referred to as rooms, have chalkboard walls free to be drawn on. A California Youth Authority facility where young people serving “juvie life” sentences tack complex photo collages to the walls above their beds and desks. A cell at a detention facility in Multnomah County, Oregon where an 18” painted square on one wall delineates where young inmates can hang photos—all of the other wall space must remain blank. These are all examples of spaces in youth confinement facilities where children are permitted some creative control. My organization, Juvenile In Justice, having documented more than 200 facilities in 31 states in the U.S, can state with some confidence that the range of visuals/art in the youth prison system is overall pretty bleak.
Art can play a significant role in the process … Read More »
Last week, we brought you inside Santa Maria Juvenile Hall to meet S.D, a 17-year-old awaiting sentencing for a violent crime committed with a group of older boys when he was 14. S.D was facing 60 years to life, now he has taken a deal of “juvie life” which means he will stay in the California Youth Authority until the age of 25. To get the deal S.D had to testify against multiple other members of his gang, which has put him at serious risk even inside the juvenile hall…
A couple days after talking to S.D at Santa Maria Juvenile Hall Richard met with his mom who lives in Santa Maria and tries to maintain a normal life in spite of the rocky years she had with her son leading up to the arrest– from camping out in the ‘hood … Read More »
“We have not ended racial caste in America; we have merely redesigned it.”
45 years ago yesterday Martin Luther King Jr. delivered “I’ve been to the mountaintop,” his final speech, to a crowd at the Mason Temple in Memphis Tennessee. Todd Chretien writes on the socialistworker.org, “Each time I listen to it, I stop, I’m captivated, and I’m forced to try to come to terms with what it means to fight for a better world.” The day following this speech, April 4, 1968, he was murdered. While we have come a way since 1986, there is still much work to be done. As Michelle Alexander argues in her critical book The New Jim Crow, “we have not ended racial caste in America; we have merely redesigned it.” Staring with the school to prison pipeline African American children are being disproportionately siphoned into the … Read More »
[This is the first in a series of upcoming posts on Santa Maria Juvenile Hall] in Santa Maria, California.
Over the past year I have made two visits to Santa Maria Juvenile Hall, also known as Susan J. Gionfriddo Juvenile Hall in Santa Maria, California. Gaining access to Santa Maria Juvenile Hall has been reasonably typical of the sites I have visited. Take this experience and multiply it by 300 successful attempts and many unsuccessful… it becomes exhausting.
October 2011 I visited Steve Delira, deputy director of the juvenile detention center. We spoke for an hour and I voiced my goals to have him partake in a “Justice” themed class I was teaching with Victor Rios and Cissy Ross. He explained the reasons for the closure of the Santa Barbara (South County) juvenile detention center and said he would get back to me … Read More »
[Read Part 1 HERE]
Sometimes I wish we had left the country. We had that weekend, we could have run away. But we had no idea. We knew he was innocent. We went on vacation. We were so naïve. I used to believe in the system. Now I am angry with myself for believing. Devastated that something like this can happen, does happen. Looking back, there were so many things I would have done differently. But you can’t go back. It was the first time we’d been involved in the juvenile justice system. We hired a lawyer we heard was very good. We paid a fortune. My daughter sold her house to pay for him. He let us down immensely.”
I used to believe in the system. Now I am angry with myself for believing. Devastated that something like this can happen, … Read More »
Last month I had the pleasure of speaking with Annie Salsich, the Director of the Vera Institute of Justice’s Center on Youth Justice, a nonprofit center for justice policy research and practice. The Center on Youth Justice (CYJ) works with government to make juvenile justice systems equitable in policy and practice for youth, families, and communities.
Annie’s policy reform work at Vera is inspired and informed by her many years spent working directly with kids as a case manager for pregnant and parenting teens and a program director at a Boys & Girls club. She was struck by how kids were being shuttled into the justice system, the many disparities by class, race, and ethnicity, and the not-so-ideal policies dictating how she could work with these young people. Her interest in the policy side— particularly how policies are designed and how … Read More »