I was asked to judge an inmate art contest at a local prison about ten years ago, before I had any experience regarding anything about prison. Somehow I had the gumption at the time to say yes, and brave the barbed wire, the maze of airlocks, the open yard as a lone female and then the task of looking at the art. I was well compensated for the time I spent, and I thought little about it until I got another call last week from the same gentleman, now at another prison, who is again doing an inmate art show and for whatever ungodly reason still had my contact information.
Life's changed dramatically since then and I have repeated first-hand experience going into jails and prisons due to my son Brandon's arrest and now 6 year sentence. As a parent, as someone who did ministry and as a friend, I've been inside often. One thing I can say is, inmates, like us on the outside, when given lots of time and nothing else to do, yearn to express themselves in some meaningful way. When everything else that makes them human seems gone, when clothing is all the same, whether brown, orange, khaki, or whatever, talents take on an immeasurably greater importance. Talents that set apart. The above illustrations are an inmate's colored pencil drawings on envelopes. They are truly unique.
I find myself in strangely a similar position. My drive to start a business caught fire mainly I think when I found myself in the work-a-day world. I'm in a department of many people who all do the same job. There is something about being in a cube, saying the same things over and over, that makes me cry out for more-another means of defining myself. When I had all the freedom in the world to do it, I didn't really distinguish myself or try as I might. Now that that freedom is so constricted and my world is so defined by one activity, I long for the release of something wholly my own.