It is a sad reflection on current government policy that we think locking people up in inhumane conditions for any crime, sometime in prisons which are over 100 years old, “crimes” as low risk as not turning up to court or making the judge grumpy, is the best way of dealing with people who have erred, even though they may be depressed, have mental problems, be innocent and just can’t cope. The statistics are not good – England and Wales has the highest imprisonment rate in Western Europe, with the result that in 2015/6 nearly a quarter of the prison population were held in overcrowding accommodation, with prisoners sharing cells designed for one. Not surprisingly, given the lack resources and of imagination, 44% of prisoners reoffend within a year of release, so the system can hardly be judged to be successful. (I seem to remember that Mrs May used to be Home Secretary…..)
In this context, initiatives like the Koeslter Trust which supports art in prisons as part of rehabilitation, are not just to be encouraged, but are essential. At the South Bank Centre “Inside”, curated by Antony Gormley, shows art by detainees, offenders and secure patients from institutions across the UK. Many of the works focus on the prison environment with pictures of everyday life and then deeper moody pictures on the issues of depression, mental issues and the influence of drugs.
The exhibition “Inside” shows the role that arts and creativity can have in transforming lives. This year’s exhibition lacks some of the sculptural and ceramic works of previous years, which is a disappointment, but includes a wide range of art, video and poetry, including from Glasgow – “Glasga Jesus”:
“A wance met Jesus in Glasga,
He watches me still, crouched in the doorway of ma mind.”
Thank goodness for organisations like the Koestler Trust,