ASU students display inmates' art to combat high recidivism

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When you think of fine art, you don't think of a prison yard. But some Arizona State University students are now holding a gallery called (Ink)arcerated: Creativity within Confinement.

Among the 18,000 inmates who are released from Arizona prisons each year, about 40 percent of them will likely return within three years. The students wanted to highlight one program they can keep them out.

SLIDESHOW: Slideshow: Artwork created by Arizona inmates

Each painting or drawing on display at Unexpected Art was made by an inmate of the Arizona prison complex in Florence. Criminology freshman Genevieve McKenzie said the students came up with this gallery as part of the solution to the high recidivism problem.

"This is something that has provided them with a lot of tools they might be able to use once they are released, some of them want to become tattoo artists," said McKenzie.

Proceeds of purchased art will go to either the Pinal County Family Advocacy Centers or Children First Leadership Academy. Each piece comes with a name, inmate number, and inspiration. 

"75 percent of the inspirations the artists wrote was to raise money for the kids," McKenzie said.

She said she hopes creativity inside their cell walls translates to creativity outside them.

"95 percent of individuals who created this art are going to be released, they might one day be your neighbor," she said.

"If we give them the opportunity now to do something to bring about change or make a positive contribution to society, I think that's something we should invest in," said Professor Kevin Wright.

He said the inmates, ranging from minimum to maximum security, get very few supplies. But seeing the creativity gives him hope that being good artists will turn these prisoners into good neighbors, once they're released. 

"If it was a victim of a crime related to me, I would want that person to give back and atone for their mistakes, and I think this is an opportunity to do that," he said.

The art will be on display Friday from 6 p.m. to 10 p.m.

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