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  STATIC Collaboration with Frances Hawthorne, Ann Kluttz and Mike Wirth    
"Tired Justice"
Several of the artists have been working in a volunteer capacity at Mecklenburg County Jail North, facilitating an informal art class for adult male inmates in a medium security setting. We did not and still do not know the crimes of which they were accused. Inmates and volunteers related to each other as human beings with a shared interest in creative endeavor. Most of the inmates did not have any formal art training, many did not have formal education in general, and some were not native English speakers.

After up to five years of interaction between at least one of the artists and inmates, we began to understand how these men are essentially “invisible” to the world outside the jail. The USA has less than 5% of the world's population, but has 25% of the world's prisoners. Culture at large tends to deny prisoners any “human” qualities, but in our experience, many of the MCJN inmates have much to offer. They represent the millions of inmates who have been ‘forgotten’ by a society that prefers punishment to rehabilitation, that often makes decisions based on ideology rather than compassion, and that continues to support institutional neglect and exploitation of those stricken by the injustices of poverty and racism.

In this context, we became interested in assisting the public viewing of inmates’ constructive activity. More than anything these men need their voices…often angry, often anguished… heard by those “outside”. They need to know they are not invisible. They need to feel human. In lieu of their physical presence, we made life casts of their feet and hands (inmates cannot be identified by their faces), and asked them to write brief statements that would be read by the public. This is the basis of the installation.



© Malena Bergmann 2009