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Prison Art: How It's Elevating Creativity And Connection

At Pelipost, our story of family incarceration created our purpose: keeping families connected. The photos sent with our app make a huge impact on the lives of those incarcerated. In prison, photos serve as decoration and daily inspiration. At the holidays, photos of trees and decorated houses “become our Christmas lights on the inside,” says Pelipost Co-Founder and C.O.O. Becky Calderon. But what about the impact of art created inside jails and prisons? Today, we’re focusing on prison art- a special topic that resonates with our mission. Inside prisons, there's an incredible world of artistic expression waiting to be explored. Sharing artwork crafted by incarcerated individuals is not just about aesthetics; it's a powerful way to maintain connections. Art has a unique ability to offer a glimpse into the resilience and creativity of those we care about.

The Power of Artistic Expression in Prison

For those who are incarcerated, creative expression becomes a powerful tool for personal growth and rehabilitation. Art offers individuals an avenue to channel their emotions, tell their stories, and find a sense of purpose. According to Delinia Lewis, Community Resources Manager at California Institution for Men, sharing art is a big part of rehabilitation. “It’s paying restitution to the world by giving back something positive because they … have been taking from the world, taking from victims. This is an opportunity to give back – to give back a smile or joy.” Through artistic expression, individuals in prison discover a profound means of self-discovery and healing.

Art programs inside prisons like Imagination on Fire empower incarcerated artists to share their work with the public. These works would never be seen by the outside world. Lewis describes the impact of the program on an incarcerated man who was not able to read or write:

“Now, his art is going for more than $500, $600. He could sell several art renderings a month and make a life for himself. But he did not know that before coming to this prison and being part of this program. So, it’s life-affirming. Now we’ve given him a real skill that is legal where he can make an income for himself, he can work for himself, and we’ve given him hope. I think it helps this come full circle. And we’ve given this person more confidence in himself, and now he believes in himself enough to learn to read and write.”

Incarcerated Artist Ezequiel Gonzalez on his piece, “From Within“: “When I fall in depression, I feel a darkness over me. My thoughts become scrambled and depressing. However, light reminds me of the word of God and His radiant love. In dark moments I trust Him and allow His light to overcome my dark state of depression.” Source: The St. John's Bible

It's not just about the artwork; it's the journey of self-expression that reminds our incarcerated loved ones that they matter. By embracing their art, we witness the positive impact it has on individuals, contributing to their emotional well-being and offering a path towards a brighter future.

Showcasing Art from the inside

More than just an app for sending photos to prison, Pelipost has provided a platform to share artwork and poetry from our incarcerated loved ones. We’ve created a space for our community to showcase the talents of those behind bars through our annual art and poetry contests.

These contests, often centered around significant occasions like Valentine's Day or Father's Day, serve as a canvas for friends and family to submit art, including drawings, paintings, and poetry. Our team looks forward to the submissions every year, and it’s always a challenge to choose the winners. Contest winners receive prizes such as PeliPOINTS, exclusive discounts, and complimentary PeliPALS Memberships to help make it easy to stay connected. Beyond the contests, we welcome and appreciate ongoing submissions, fostering a continuous celebration of prison art. Join us in elevating the spirit of creativity and connection.

Submissions from our 2023 Father's Day Art Contest

A cause for connection

When families receive artwork from their incarcerated loved ones, they gain perspective of their loved one’s experience in prison. Rev. Nora Jacob is co-founder and Restorative Justice Director of UrbanMission Community Partners. She says “More than one in 10 Americans know someone currently in prison or in the system. All of that comes up as people experience art that comes out of people who are incarcerated and who are expressing their truths. It’s a real invitation for connection, even though you’re not connecting with a person directly – you’re connecting with their artwork.”

Inside prison walls, it’s easy to feel isolated. Sharing prison art helps break down those barriers of stigma and shine a light on our loved ones and their humanity. It’s a reminder that they still matter, and that their experience matters. Through art, we can create a bridge of understanding and support.

"My daughter's dad is the best man I have ever met. Although he is away from us the best memory we shared together will always be having our daughter. He is so talented and truly the best dad. We can’t wait for him to get home and be the amazing father and partner he was meant to be." -Marrissa, Pelipost customer

Transforming lives through prison art

We’re proud to support creativity, connection, and compassion, embodying a mission that goes beyond just sending photos to prison. Prison art can transcend boundaries, offering a glimpse into the resilience and creativity of those on the inside. It can be a tool for personal growth and rehabilitation, providing incarcerated individuals a way to express emotions, tell their stories, and discover a sense of purpose.

Pelipost has created a platform for our community to showcase the artistic talents of their loved ones through our art and poetry contests. These contests, along with ongoing submissions, contribute to a continuous celebration of prison art. We encourage our community to embrace the spirit of creativity and connection, recognizing that art creates a bridge of understanding and support. Let's work together to break down the barriers of stigma and reveal the humanity within prison walls.