It all started with two statistics:
1. Since 2012 the NSW prison population rose by 13 per cent, reaching a record high in March this year of 10,917.
2. 55% of those people have served time before.
Something isn’t right with our communities because prison populations are increasing, and something isn’t right with corrections because more than half of those incarcerated are reoffending.
Beauty and the Grey Beast: Surprising Tales from Prison springs from interactions with inmates and correctional staff at Junee Correctional Centre. It takes a multiplatform ‘triptych’ approach to building a conversation around our prison system and the potential of art and cultural activities as gateways to self-development.
The three elements of the project are –
Shot inside Junee Correctional Centre the film humanises the demonised, presenting a side of inmates rarely seen. Being in prison is physically, emotionally and mentally gruelling, but the activities offered at Junee’s Cultural Centre combat this through involving inmates in choir, painting and performance.
The Grey Beast – an audiovisual installation
Featured as part of Idea Bombing in August 2014 taking the form of a custom built ‘cell’ created in collaboration with Amigo and Amigo, which invites audiences to explore different perspectives on life inside and to provide their own questions, answers and feedback. Responses will be taken back to Junee for inmates to reply in their chosen art form creating an exchange between inside and outside.
Based around a 6 hour workshop the zine includes collaborative pieces the inmates produced for this publication as well as artwork and writing from others inside.
By giving these inmates a platform to present their work we want to show them as more than their crime whilst contributing to the existing creative and cultural programming at Junee Correctional Centre.
It’s an alternate narrative than what’s most often heard in the news but one that’s just as valid.
We believe that engagement is a gateway to education, mental well being and self development, crucial tools to make changes for the better.
As much as the doco is about exploring potential, connecting inmates with creative expression and their cultural heritage to inspire change, the zine is about putting this belief into practice and utilising the power of creativity and cultural activities to transform.
“The collected works of incarcerated writers, artists and artisans is a rewarding and uplifting illustration that redemption is possible in our society, a society that has a loathing and fear of those caught up in our prison system. Beauty can be found in the most surprising places if you look.”
– Inmate, Junee Correctional Centre
Initiated, designed and executed by OTR in collaboration with Junee Correctional Centre
Community Development | Australia