Today we have the latest in the ongoing series by guest Amoeblog contributor, incarcerated Sacramento hip-hop artist Anerae "X-Raided" Brown. Here, he continues a topic that he began in a previous Amoeblog about the creative process in prison.
In the previously published first part he wrote about the fact that incarcerated individuals sometimes have an advantage when it comes to being creative because they can focus more easily on their art due to lack of distractions. In this second piece on the same topic, he writes about the importance of certain programs for inmates and one in particular that was cut some years back due to the state's budget crisis. As you know, California's budget crisis has only worsened in recent times and those in the prison system, where things are already chronically overcrowded, are feeling the crunch most.
The Creative Process in Prison, Part Two: by Anerae "X-Raided" Brown
Once upon a time, before California's well documented budget crisis, before the California Department of Corrections indisingeniously added "Rehabilitation" to their name, there existed a program titled Arts in Corrections. For this program, so called Free-Staff, often unpaid citizens that volunteered their time and expertise, would come into institutions to teach inmates such skills as how to play musical instruments, how to paint, or draw, or bead, and many other crafts and hobbies that would allow interested inmates to occupy their time in productive ways. And oftentimes Free Staff would learn a thing or two from random exceptionally talented inmates.
The program no longer exists, of course. Begun as an outgrowth of the 1977 pilot Prison Arts Project (PAP), which was set up in 1977 at the California Medical Facility at Vacaville, with funding provided by the San Francisco Foundation, the National Endowment for the Arts, the California Arts Council, and the Law Enforcement Assistance Administration, the program was terminated in January 2003. It is missed. But in its absence, inmates have come up with ways to be creative on their own. Guitars and keyboards can be purchased depending upon an inmate's behavior. It's not unusual for inmate bands to be in a facility. They play at graduation ceremonies, religious services, and institutional holiday events. Inmates have time to discover and hone their skills. I've been on a facility with the Menendez brothers and Erik is a phenomenal painter.
At the end of the day, the human spirit thirsts to express itself. This is true for the incarcerated and free alike. Many in society would have it thought that inmates have no redeeming qualities, despite the fact that prior to incarceration, inmates were members of society. It is not prison that gives birth to the inmate, it is society. That, of course, is another story. I was asked to write about the ways in which inmates go about accomplishing certain things creatively, but I respectfully must decline to do so. I wouldn't want to be responsible for the closing of anyone's window of opportunity. However, allow the record to reflect that life does go on, and where there is life, there is art and creativity. Even when it's Life without the Possibility of Parol.
Aneraé "X-Raided" Brown is the president of Bloc Star Entertainment, Inc. As outlined in his previous Amoeblogs, he has managed to remain a prolific artist even from behind bars. His latest album The Unforgiven 2: Assisted Suicide, is available at Amoeba Music and his just released new single, "Speak the Truth," is available online.