I’ve been so looking forward to getting into prison. (Haha) There’s some fantastic work being done, in the UK they run hearing voices groups in prisons. Although I’m passionate about vulnerable communities and challenging circumstances, so far none of my projects or travels had taken me behind the wall of Corrections, until now.
Earlier this year I was invited to join an existing project by SHINE SA and Hepatitis SA that was being carried out in several local prisons. I jumped at the chance. A background check, some paperwork, and a recalcitrant retinal scanner later and I was holding my first art workshop and sexual health information session alongside my small team.
It was excellent! They were hungry for resources, for information, for a sense of hope and not being forgotten by the outside world. We provided accurate, non judgemental education together, and gathered a collection of submissions from them – art, poetry, stories, questions.
I’m now in the second phase of the project, curating the submissions and informational articles, and illustrating and laying it all out as a booklet. It’s a big wonderful job and as I’m pulling it together I’m finding certain faces come to mind from people I’ve met. I hope it will speak to them, usually in community development projects I have a much deeper understanding of who I’m speaking to, while I’m just getting to know these people and their circumstances. There’s huge overlaps in experiences though – common threads of poverty, trauma, mental illness, and hardship for many. Sparse resources, broken dreams, profound regrets, and lost identity I do understand. Sometimes peers can speak and sooothe and share hope in ways we simply won’t allow from others.
So I’m working on something beautiful, in the style of a handmade book that will go back out into the prisons. I can’t wait to show you when it’s ready.