There is a danger in this work – “this work” being arts in corrections: we come to prison from the outside, we have experiences, we leave and perhaps write about these experiences with the space and time that freedom affords us – space and time that our incarcerated students and co-writers do not have. We cannot deny this inherent power dynamic in what we do.
This writing, this anthology, exists because prison exists. And that is a confusing reality – how do we simultaneously acknowledge the systematic oppression intrinsically connected to legalized punishment, acknowledge the inherent power difference between ourselves and our students, and still honor the art that demands to be created?
This project is motivated by questions, because there are no clear answers:
- What does it mean to imprison humans?
- Who is doing the imprisoning?
- Am I responsible?
- What does it mean to create art in a place with people that our country has decided to hide? What does it mean to teach or write with those who we are not supposed to see?
- Does creating art inside mean I have a stake in the perpetuation of the structures and systems (social, economic, historic, etc.) that support the Prison Industrial Complex?
- Do we, as witnesses to the correctional system, have a responsibility to share our experiences?
- To whom is this responsibility owed? To prisoners? To their loved ones? To ourselves? To people who have no knowledge of or experience with the prison system?
- In writing about this work and sharing it with the public, are we continuing to speak for our already most marginalized and under-served citizens? If we don’t write about this work and share it with the public, are we continuing to marginalize and under-serve them?