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Posts Tagged ‘juvenile’

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Photo: Jessica Griffin/Philadelphia Inquirer
James Hough spent 27 years in prison making murals for the outside world without getting to see the finished product. Now, he’s the Philly DA’s artist-in-residence.

This makes good sense to me: an ex-offender welcomed at the district attorney’s office as an artist-in-residence. Way to move forward! But in this and other restorative justice programs, the victims of a crime are not left out.

Samantha Melamed reports at the Philadelphia Inquirer, “For nearly two decades, James Hough painted sections of murals that would splash color, bold imagery, and messages of resilience, healing and hope across more than 50 blank or blighted walls across Philadelphia.

“But Hough — who was serving a life sentence at the State Correctional Institution-Graterford — never saw the finished artwork. Each square of parachute cloth he painted was sent out into the world. He saw the finished product only in photographs sent to him by Mural Arts Philadelphia’s Restorative Justice program.

“Then, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that life sentences automatically imposed on minors were cruel and unusual, putting Hough in line for a new sentence making him eligible for parole.

“Now, Hough is seeing his work on display for the first time — and expanding his role in making public art as an unlikely emissary for the Philadelphia District Attorney’s Office, where he is taking a position that’s been described as the first-ever artist-in-residence at a DA’s office, embedded alongside prosecutors, investigators and victim advocates. …

“It makes perfect sense to DA Larry Krasner, who sees the arts as central to the criminal justice reform movement, starting with the writing of Michelle Alexander and continuing with the films of Ava DuVernay, right up to Kendrick Lamar’s songs of racial injustice.

[The DA said], ‘The connection between the reforms we’re trying to make in Philadelphia and the people in Philly who are part of that movement are best made in some ways through the arts.’ …

“The project will be supported by Mural Arts Philadelphia and by Fair and Just Prosecution, the national network of reform prosecutors. …

“Miriam Krinsky, who heads Fair and Just Prosecution, sees the project as a pilot for other offices around the country willing to welcome in artists and work with them to humanize the impact of the system and underscore the need for reform.

“She acknowledged that by bringing in someone such as Hough, who came into the criminal justice system at 17 for fatally shooting a man on a Pittsburgh street in 1992 and spent 27 years in prison, the work is also squarely aimed at those who work within the office.

“Hough, who lives in Pittsburgh, envisions conducting interviews and workshops with DA office staffers and people in the community, and using those testimonials to inspire a series of videos and paintings. …

“Before a news conference at the District Attorney’s Office to announce his new role, Hough stopped off near 12th and Callowhill Streets, to gaze up at a striking mural he’d created called the Stamp of Incarceration, working side by side with the artist Shepard Fairey and other prisoners.

“ ‘I was involved with this mural for the whole process: developing the concept, mixing the colors,’ he said. ‘Now, the final step is witnessing it. … I can’t wait for some of the other guys that are incarcerated to get that experience,’ he said. ‘It really places you as an individual who worked on a collective project in the bigger scheme of things, in the sense that you contributed to the tapestry of the city in a meaningful way. And it opens the door to the possibility that there’s more that you can do.’ ” More here.

For a previous post on restorative justice, click here. And here’s one about an indigenous approach and another about using the arts.

 

 

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Today I walked over to the Moakley Courthouse on Boston Harbor to see an art exhibit that the Actors’ Shakespeare Project put together with youth in detention. It consisted of large photographs in which a young person, sometimes in costume, acted out a word from Shakespeare. I did not feel that the presentation in the low-ceiling hallway did the works justice — and having to go through metal detectors to look at them is a bit of a downer — but the concept is positive.

Deborah Becker of WBUR reported that the photographs were part of a larger effort to turn young offenders around with the help of art: “Using the arts as a way to heal and transform is the theme of an exhibit at Boston’s federal courthouse. The artists are children who have been involved with the Massachusetts Department of Youth Services (DYS), the agency that handles youngsters charged with crimes.

“At a recent reception of the artists and DYS officials, 17-year-old Ricky Brown was among the young people proudly describing his work. He helped paint a mural that covers the entire wall of a DYS district office in Springfield. He says it sends a message about kids in the juvenile justice system.

“It brightens up the whole building,” Brown said. “It makes sure to say that we’re not only there to get locked up. It’s there to let people know that we do work together, we do do something positive.”

Read more.

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