Prison Letter Project

It’s important for me to slow down and remind myself that my work is interdisciplinary, founded in the principle that art doesn’t live in a vaccum.  My prison letter writing workshops are an example of how my work has the capacity to jump outside of a traditional fine arts definition. Working through the U.S. Postal Service forces me to slow down and target my correspondence more deliberately. My work moves through the channels of government infrastructure; which usually means slowly.  Even after I write hundreds of letters, I just wait for the return, and it is in the reading and rereading of the correspondence that I discover my projects. 

Handwriting each letter has become essential due to the nature of the activity.  There is the time it takes to select a correspondent, the time spent actually writing the letter, the purchasing of the stamp and envelope, and the act of going to the post office.  The labor of letter writing itself is an acknowledgement to the overall theme of my work– that prisoners are people. 

The United States is home to a quarter of the worlds incarcerated population.  With such a vast inmate population, there needs to be a responsibility to take care of these people.  An inmate’s humanity should not be diminished by the actions of one moment.  There are too many variables that effected that moment for a society to deem the individual worthless or to be completely disregarded.  No matter what someone has done, having a meaningful interaction with someone can be life changing. 

In Letter Writing Workshops, participants are given the profile of an inmate, a legal pad of paper, a pen, and a stamped envelope.  Trying to target people who were in need of human interaction, I attempt to generate a list of inmates who had yet to receive mail, so this correspondence would likely be the first contact these individuals would have with the free world since their arrival to prison.  The overall goal in this project is for both the writer and the inmate to have a positive connection through correspondence.

Lawrence, Kansas