Written By: Betty Slutsky Published: Aug 11th, 2011

An exhibit featuring works by incarcerated artists opens this weekend and runs through September. The show, put together by local prison abolitionist groups Black and Pink and Boston Anarchist Black Cross, will be on display at Somerville’s Papercut Zine Library, located at 226 Pearl St. The space is open Saturdays and Sundays 2-7PM and by appointment. There will be a closing party Saturday September 17th at 7PM.

Highlighting prisoners’ own experiences, the exhibit sheds light on the conditions in which an ever-growing number of Americans find themselves. Incarcerating 2.3 million people, or nearly 1% of its population, the United States incarcerates a larger number and percentage of its populace than any other nation, beating out both China and Soviet Russia. 7.2 million, or around 3% of the US population, are under some form of punitive supervision. Courts disproportionately dole out punitive sentences to racial and/or sexual minorities. Black adult males, for instance, are almost 7 times more likely to be imprisoned than white male defendants. Exhibited alongside the art are these and other statistics to provide an objective context for the works.

Part of the show focuses on works by incarcerated LGBTQ people. Trans and queer people are more likely to be imprisoned than straight people and, once behind bars, encounter rampant harassment and abuse. Taken as a whole, the artwork displays a breadth of emotion and subject matter. Ranging from political indictments to some light-hearted moments, the works offer a window into how individuals can use art and creation as tools of survival in the midst of degrading and potentially violent conditions.

Given that parole in Massachusetts is in precipitous decline in the wake of the Parole Board’s gutting, there is a need to ask basic questions about our state, the values it’s founded on, and where to go from here. Boston ABC and Black and Pink hope this exhibit can provide an opportunity to ask these questions, and inspire action.

For more information on the groups behind this exhibit:

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