Crossing Fences: Prison Art Program

Join The Movement Natalie Venezia Executive Director

Lansdale, Pennsylvania Jun 17, 2024 ( - The United States imprisons more of its citizens than any other nationcurrently more than 1.8 million. While more than 600,000 Americans are released from prisons annually, two-thirds are rearrested within three years. Each year, the nation spends over $80 billion to incarcerate and reincarcerate people. Beyond the financial impact, the cycle of crime and incarceration produces broken relationships, victimization, despair, and instability, impacting families and communities across the nation. Something isnt working.

The 365 Foundation will work to restore Americas criminal justice system and those it affects. We aim to help women replace the cycle of trauma that landed them in prison. We advocate for justice reform and activate grassroots networks to do the same. We equip wardens to bring restorative change to their facilities.

Crossing Fences: Prison Art Program is a series of restorative art exhibitions designed for women in prisons, jails, and reentry facilities.

This initiative created by the 365 Foundation hopes to change lives by offering a rare opportunity for female incarcerated artists to exhibit their artwork every six months (twice a year). Still, this initiative is not just about art. It's about understanding the unique challenges incarcerated women face, a crucial step toward promoting their well-being. The Prison Art Program exhibition is a new program under the 365 Foundations 2024-2025 initiative, Crossing Fences.

This program empowers women to acknowledge critical emotions and develop self-awareness through the lens of artistic expression. Through providing art supplies and guidance, we will encourage participants to look to the past for understandingand look forward to a new beginning.

This program will collaborate with the prisons and be guided by the 365 Foundations Board of Directors. Activist/author Amanda Knox and local artists/art therapy instructors will lead it. Prisons will choose participants, and once chosen, they will be encouraged to create whatever they feel compelled to share. We believe that all artwork created will help women share their voices, and communities will have an opportunity to hear from an often-forgotten population.

As defined by the American Art Therapy Association, art therapy is founded on the belief that visual and symbolic expression gives voice to experience and empowers individual, communal and societal transformation. This transformative power of art therapy is at the heart of our program, offering hope and a path to rehabilitation for incarcerated women.

This initiative and exhibition will seek to draw attention to the fact that women are the fastest-growing segment of the incarcerated population, increasing at nearly double the rate of men since 1985, according to the American Civil Liberties Union. It also speaks to the disproportionate impact on women of color; the ACLU states that Black women represent 30 percent of all incarcerated women nationally despite accounting for only 13 percent of the countrys female population. Hispanic women additionally represent 16 percent of incarcerated women and 11 percent of the countrys female population.

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Women soon to be released from prison can also benefit from this Crossing Fences Prison Art Program which will help them transition by focusing on the arts. By offering these women an opportunity to tap into their lived experiences from their past, art can turn that pain into beauty and change their futures.  For women soon after being released from prison, this program can ease their transition by using art to increase confidence, open the doors to a career in art, and introduce them to a creative, supportive community.

The 365 Foundation hopes to support the creativity and resourcefulness utilized in creating works that will speak directly to the unwavering resilience and steadfast hope of this group of incarcerated female artists. Artists will be encouraged to write a letter, displayed next to their work, to introduce themselves and share their story and what inspires them to create. The 365 Foundation aims to educate local communities that the power of art can change people and institutions.

Art is a way to self-introspection, a path to discovery and healing for many individuals. And if today's data reflects that prison does not necessarily work in terms of rehabilitationsuggesting that a switch of criminal justice is neededarts in prison are not only an escape for the mind but also a means to understand oneself and heal.

The sale of any artwork will benefit organizations that help victims in the communities where these women have committed crimes. Upon their release, a portion will also go to the inmates to help them restart their lives.

We have also partnered with the Montgomery County Reentry Initiative and the Sunlight of the Spirit Womens Home. 

Donations made for this program will help support this program, which is designed to reduce recidivism and help create productive members of society.

Final Thought:

Up to 90% of incarcerated people will come back into your community. Wouldnt it be better to help them heal and provide creative outlets to work through their traumas that occurred before and during incarceration?

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This article was originally published by IssueWire. Read the original article here.

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