Every day thousands of people are sent to
jails and prisons. In the process, these people often leave behind
friends and family, as well as creative potential that is rarely
ever made evident to the general public. A prisoner’s
artistic ability is often still present while he is incarcerated
and as he continues to create inspiring works of art.

Mira Levitan

For these often maligned, and certainly stereotyped, prison
inmates, a campus program at the University has offered an avenue
for self-expression over the past few years. The Prison Creative
Arts Project offers members of the University community the
opportunity to witness and even purchase works of art created by
prisoners. On top of the wide array of art that is on display for
sale, there is a series of talks and seminars surrounding the
event. The talks and seminars are intended to help the general
population understand the plight of prisoners and their
families.

The two-week-long event is the brainchild of English Prof. Buzz
Alexander and his class English 319: Literature and Social Change.
Among the events that take place during the duration of the program
are movie viewings, book readings, talks with inmate family members
and seminars about prison artwork by former prisoners
themselves.

To much of society, members of the prison population are a
social afterthought at best. Many prisoners, however, are very
skilled in areas such as art. From within prison walls, that skill
can rarely be put to use. Through their artistic ability, prisoners
are now able to reach area residents through the PCAP program. By
putting their works up for sale, PCAP is able to provide prisoners
with a sense of self-worth that many have not felt since their
incarceration began.

Family members of the incarcerated have also been positively
affected by this series. Through some of the talks and forums,
prisoners’ families are able to express their gratitude for
such a forum as PCAP and can relay how their relatives feel knowing
that their work is being appreciated on the other side of the
prison bars.

Campus programs like the PCAP benefit the campus community by
allowing the campus somewhat of an understanding of what prison
life is like and how some prisoners cope with their imprisonment.
The program seeks to connect prisoners with the constantly changing
world that exists on the outside of prison.

In a progressive environment like the University, more programs
that allow students, faculty and members of the community to taste
a part of the world that they normally would not, should be
explored. Furthermore, constituents from all portions of this
community should go, learn and participate in programs like PCAP
that enrich the University.

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