We draw our inspiration from many resources, a few of which we share with you: experiences, voices, and art from inside, and a documentary that shines the light on contemporary issues of incarceration in the United States.
"Inscape" is a yearly publication out of the Southern State Correctional Facility in Springfield, Vermont. A summer class at the facility is taught by Bill Freedman, and the result is this chapbook. From the introductory notes:
"Inscape, a concept central to the aesthetics of the Victorian poet Gerard Manley Hopkins, is the unified complex of characteristics that makes an object unique. It is an object's defining core or essence that distinguishes it from all other things.
Poetry by prisoners, some incarcerated for many years, possibly cuts closer to that essence and possibly speaks from closer to the heart or gut of immediate matters. But these confined poets have plenty of patience for the ordinary, the everyday, even the frivolous and the humorous. Though a fair number of these poems are about the prison experience, others give voice to universal themes familiar to all of us."
This riveting documentary profiles inmates of New Folsom, a maximum-security facility outside Sacramento, CA. Its focus is the arts program that allowed them a chance at redemption.
The above link will take you to a youtube screening of the film, in English with Swedish subtitles.
Possible triggers are language and discussion of violent crimes.
The arts program that was in place at New Folsom, Arts in Corrections, was suspended in 2010 due to lack of funds, but was reinstated in 2013. They continue to do programming in various men's and women's facilities in California, making a positive impact on many lives.
"Longer Ago captivates the heart with imagery as real and vivid as life. I feel the restlessness and danger in “No Beauty In Cell Bars” and experience the longing so vividly described. I take the journey to the desert in “Home Boys” like I’m watching a scene in a movie. I glimpse a man’s love and longing and dreams. I see the details through his eyes in “Window Sill” of life in unlikely places. I hear his silent revolution in “Misdirections” and witness the wonder of a poet discovering his poetry. I fly through the universe on the wind, past the full moon riding the words of this book, gently landing on “Beauty In Cell Bars” where Spoon eloquently reminds me to let flow “the dam we build to stop the universal love, the light”. All of this from a man behind bars who has been to depths in the heart and soul that few of us reach. Longer Ago is truly a captivating, soul-provoking, beautiful collection of realness in words." Michelle McAfee Performing Singer/Songwriter Awake Now Records (Creator/Owner)
Spoon Jackson was featured in the documentary "At Night I Fly." His book, "Longer Ago," is available through lulu.com.
Jimmy Santiago Baca's harrowing, brilliant memoir of his life before, during, and immediately after the years he spent in a maximum-security prison garnered tremendous critical acclaim and went on to win the prestigious 2001 International Prize. Long considered one of the best poets in America today, Baca was illiterate at the age of twenty-one and facing five to ten years behind bars for selling drugs. A Place to Stand is the remarkable tale of how he emerged after his years in the penitentiary -- much of it spent in isolation -- with the ability to read and a passion for writing poetry. A vivid portrait of life inside a maximum-security prison and an affirmation of one man's spirit in overcoming the most brutal adversity, A Place to Stand "stands as proof there is always hope in even the most desperate lives" -- (Fort Worth Morning Star-Telegram). "A Place to Stand is a hell of a book, quite literally. You won't soon forget it." -- Luis Urrea, The San Diego Union-Tribune "This book will have a permanent place in American letters." -- Jim Harrison
“Ace Boggess’s The Prisoners gives voice to those forgotten Americans behind the ever increasing miles of razor wire. Complicated with the mixed emotions of regret and defiance, of loss and perseverance, of hope and frustration, these aren’t just persona poems, nor are they just poems of witness; rather these poems are metaphors, too, for the way each of us may feel jailed by circumstance only to find a kind of freedom in the possibilities of poetry.”
—Gerry LaFemina, author of Vanishing Horizon and Notes for the Novice Ventriloquist
"13th" is a 2016 American documentary by director Ava DuVernay. The film explores the "intersection of race, justice, and mass incarceration in the United States;" it is titled after the Thirteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution, which freed the slaves and prohibited slavery (unless as punishment for a crime).
DuVernay contends that slavery has been perpetuated in practices since the end of the American Civil War through such actions as criminalizing behavior and enabling police to arrest poor freedmen and force them to work for the state under convict leasing; suppression of African Americans by disenfranchisement, lynchings and Jim Crow; politicians declaring a war on drugs that weigh more heavily on minority communities and, by the late 20th century, mass incarceration of people of color in the United States. She examines the prison-industrial complex and the emerging detention-industrial complex, demonstrating how much money is being made by corporations from such incarcerations.
13th has garnered acclaim from film critics. It was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Documentary Feature at the 89th Academy Awards, and won the Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Documentary or Nonfiction Special at the 69th Primetime Emmy Awards.