The art of prison reform

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  The art of prison abolition

Art has been central to the salvation of many. For the incarcerated, it is a means to actively grow and expand beyond the walls of a 6x8 cell. History, though rarely written, is replete with success stories; test positive proof that shows, over and over again, that art of every kind is the greatest form of rehabilitation, resilience and resistance. We have seen this in so many forms of protest, the power of storytelling, song and visual arts has tightly accompanied every great change, from individual acts to worldwide movements. This project subverts the expectations set by the outdated prison dramas, moving beyond the exploitative standard and allowing the talent and voices of those we so often ignore to speak for themselves. 

 

When considering art as protest, we must also consider how it has been used to demonize and polarize us. From art as propaganda, to the specific and intentional use of language, COLLAPSING THE HOUSE investigates the intent of dehumanizing labels in prison and the history of characterizing people as less than human, its current impact within the carceral system and what we can do to stop it.

 

When considering this language, we cannot forget that colonization most often relies on a system of “us” versus “them”. The tried and true argument that, when given the choice we most often choose “us” and easily fall prey to false distinctions. When colonizers first came to this country they used “savage”, “brute”, “barbarian”, “uncivilized” and other such terms to stake claim on someone else’s ground. They created a separation between themselves and the Indigenous people of America, dehumanizing them as “other” so that their own vile and violent acts were excused and that their “claim” to this country became more powerful and deserved in their own minds. This is the blueprint for any oppressive people, foundational to this country. This method of cruelty and division is most obviously illustrated by the heinous institution of American slavery, an institution with roots that remain deeply embedded in this country today.

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