Over the last 40 years, incarceration has grown into an $80 billion industry. One that depends on the human caging of 2.3 million people to extract wealth and resources from the economically-distressed, and disproportionately black and brown, communities unjustly targeted by our criminal legal system. Companies like Securus and Union Supply charge spouses $3.95 to listen to a voicemail from their partners and mothers $4.15 to deposit $10 on the commissary accounts of their children.

Incarcerated people know best that profits in the prison industry are directly linked to suffering. Often, however, words fall short in conveying the harms that commercialization inflicts.

Capitalizing on Justice features the works of incarcerated artists from across the nation who have used their talents to express the ways they and their loved ones have been commodified. Spanning a variety of genres and styles, the works in this exhibition were made using limited resources: state-issued materials, prison contraband, and yard scraps. They were shipped in makeshift envelopes and tattered boxes from as deep in our criminal legal system as Arkansas’ death row and come together to make a strong statement against the prison industrial complex.

Importantly, thanks to funding support, the incarcerated artists whose works are showcased in this exhibit have received financial awards in compensation for their labor.

Acknowledgements
We want to extend a special thanks to our curatorial committee without which the exhibition would not have been possible: Dwayne Betts, Kimberly Drew, Nicole Fleetwood, Jesse Krimes, and Ché Morales. We also want to extend our deep gratitude to our generous exhibition sponsors: Jess Jacobs, Julia Lourie, Lisa Lourie, Robert Lourie, Kaitlyn Krieger, Raymond McGuire, Michael and Sukey Novogratz, Cat Gund, and Hillary Hamm. Finally, we extend our deep gratitude to all the artists who submitted works for this exhibition.

This is an online version of the live exhibition on display at 40 Rector Street, 9th Floor, NY, NY 10019. It is open to the public Monday through Friday, 9am to 5pm, excluding holidays. This online gallery includes additional pieces not selected for the exhibition.

Please contact us to organize special group tours of the exhibition or to inquire about purchasing any of the art works.

 

James Yaya Hough (b. 1974)
Collegeville, PA

Facility: State Correction Institution – Phoenix, PA
Sentence: 27 years to Life
Time Served: 26 years

I Am The Economy

Human bodies, specifically those of color given their over representation in the system, are harshly and mechanically converted into cash by the prison industrial complex.

PCI Big House Products Mattress

A rendition of a prisoner-made mattress. “PCI Big House” is a state-run corporation that employs prisoners and pays slave wages.

How Big House Products Makes Boxer Shorts

An African American prisoner’s body is being used, or processed, by Pennsylvania Correctional Industries to make Big House products, like boxer shorts, for slave wages. These products are sold back to prisoners. A pack of six Big House boxer shorts costs $3.09 in commissary.

 

James Riva (Age 61)
Bridgewater, MA

Facility: Old Colony Correctional Center, MA
Sentence:  Life without parole
Time Served:  38 years

A Cell with a Nicer View

This old Roman era garrison in Ireland was later used as a prison. Though ancient and draconian, it still seems the treatment of prisoners there was far better even without modern medicine and protective constitutions. The enduring stay in prison was seldom in years, and it was not conducted or executed for profit like the American system here and now. Punishment was clear and defined. The net result was not prolonged torture just so political insiders can profit off lucrative contracts for substandard food and medical services, and infrastructure maintenance. The bonus: it had cells with nicer views.

Matthew Gunning (b. 1971)
Brownsburg, IN

Facility: New Castle Correctional Facility, IN
Sentence:  9 years
Time Served:  4 years

Who is Really in Prison?

This painting depicts a woman standing alone with a window and prison bars. She wears a trendy red coat that misrepresents her means, suggesting she can afford the cost of the pictures, calls, videos, and visits required to communicate with an incarcerated loved one. But she can’t, and the emotional price is heavy. The pain, loneliness, and helplessness on her face as she looks at the remnants of her loved ones prints on the wet and dirty window in the visiting room is a testament of the burden carried. Posing the question: Who is really in Prison?

Paul V. Cortez (b. 1980)
Bronx, NY

Facility: Green Haven Correctional Facility, NY
Sentence:  25 years to life
Time Served: 12 ½ years

Prison Profit-Tears

This triptych addresses the financial exploitation of American prisoners and their families by private corporations.

Left Panel: The private companies, personified by six Titan-like figures, pull the prisoner in the center panel by cords attached to the services or products that they sell. Six were chosen intentionally to elude to man’s most corrupt form: 666. The blue background represents law enforcement.

Center Panel: The prisoner is pulled backwards by the profiteering companies as he struggles to sit up right. He is the model of the “jail-rich” prisoner who has all the material goods needed to do a comfortable bid, and yet the starkness of the dingy white cell and its toilet and sink unit are a reminder of his actual condition. Money pours in from the right panel from loving family members’ hands.

Right panel: Women throw their money into the wind to support their incarcerated loved ones. Seven women of differing nationalities are expressing support in varying forms from prayer to visits. The seven stand in holiness as those that uplift their incarcerated loved ones and resist the profiteers who threaten to break-up their families. The red background underscores the passion and blood in the scene.

In the end, the colors of the American flag are inverted, the mark of a backward system.

 

Kenneth Reams (b. 1974)
Grady, AR 

Facility: Varner Supermax Unit, AR
Sentence:  Death
Time Served:  27 years

Capitalization

My central motivation behind creating this collage was to highlight the wrongful exploitation and millions in profits made annually by one of the main commercial prison package vendors in America.

Founded in 1991, Union Supply Group is a privately-owned California-based company that provides low-quality and over-priced commissary goods to state, federal, and county corrections institutions in the United States. The company’s main customers are supporters, friends, and loved one's of incarcerated people, who hail primarily from low-income communities. The millions of dollars exploited annually from this targeted cross-section of our society should be considered unjust, immoral, and a shame.

Sold


Eugenio Vargas (b. 1971)
 

Facility:  Sing Sing Correctional Facility, NY
Sentence:  20 years
Time Served:  14 ½ years

Untitled

 

Orlando Smith (Age 52)

Facility:  San Quentin State Prison, CA
Sentence:  Life, 8 consecutive terms
Time Served:  22 years

The Realism of Alt Justice

 

George T. Wilkerson (b. 1981)
Raleigh, NC 

Facility: Central Prison, NC
Sentence:  Death, twice
Time Served:  13 ½ years

Subtext

Several years ago, North Carolina contracted with JPay to handle prisoners’ fund accounts, allowing the state to collect a kickback every time a deposit is made through their platform. We can no longer have money sent to us at the prisons we reside in; instead, it must be sent to JPay in Florida. Although they’ll process our money orders for free, they take weeks to do it while pressuring our friends and families to use the other deposits methods: a credit/debit card transaction via phone, internet, or phone app with a fee. This piece addresses JPay’s routine practice of holding our money orders hostage to force the use of the options from which they can profit. It represents their deposit sheet/flyer as a “ransom note,” around which I explore its subtexts whose overall message is clear: Do not use the money order (free) option, it takes too long; pay us and we’ll deposit it immediately!

Kevin Marinelli (b. 1972)
Waynesburg, PA

Facility:  State Correctional Institution – Greene, PA
Sentence:  Death
Time Served:  24 years

The Money Machine

This piece captures a symbolic depiction of how courts are used to turn people into money, while the public—voters—stand back and allow it, even if specifically unaware of what is going on. The people on the conveyor belt are indistinct except by color, because this is how we’re seen—nameless, faceless objects used to achieve this end. With a courtroom wall inscription that reads: “In God we trust,” they claim to do what they’re doing “in God.” Ironically, I wasn’t allowed to wear a religious necklace during trial, but perhaps that’s because in court, money is God. As a wise man said, “you can’t serve God and money.”



Carl Strawitch (b. 1955)
NY

Time Served:  24 ½ years

Transient Passage

Prison has become a capitalistic animal, figuratively and literally, as it drives wedges between families and their incarcerated loved ones. A previously bustling train station now sits vacant, devoid of the family and friends who once visited the incarcerated, but whose resources are now too tapped to continue making the trips. Their exploitation by for-profit corporations have left the incarcerated mourning over the cloak and dagger injustices these profiteering industries impose upon our urban communities.

 

Brian (b. 1974)
Tiptonville, TN

Time Served:  13 years

Throwing Up Spades

This piece was inspired by a political cartoon by Gustave Doré. Drawn in 1854, the cartoon shows Russian gentry seated around a table gambling in a card game. In lieu of money, the men wager serfs. A crowd of “noble” men and women as well as military figures stand watching in the background.

For my version, I drew a judge, a police officer and a man and woman who represent lawyers and other officials involved directly in the conviction and exploitation of prisoners and our families. The card game emulates those that happen in prison everyday but this one was adopted by the oppressor. The serfs are replaced with prisoners bundled together. Their facial features are left unresolved to illustrate how we are marginalized into a generic formula for use by the “powers that be” to decide what makes more profit. The judge slams down his last card enthusiastically, much like he does his gavel. In the end, we are mere chips in a game meant for others.

 

Donald “C-Note” Hooker (Age 52)
Los Angeles, CA 

Facility: California State Prison – Los Angeles, CA
Sentence:  Life
Time Served:  21 years

Capitalizing on Justice

This piece is part of my broader work on the existential threat of the wide spread use of medication inside of America’s prison. In the foreground, there are wholesale boxes, not for retail, of psychotropic medications from pharmaceutical giants like Merck (“Murk”), Pfizer (“Fizer”), and Biogen (“Biojen”). In the background, there is psychiatrist Dr. Freud harassing a nurse while being offered kickbacks from big pharma.




Ray Dansby (b. 1960)

Facility: Varner Supermax Unit, AR

Tray of Golden Eggs

The criminal legal system is a goose that lays eggs—each a prisoner, family member, or community adversely affected by the capitalization of justice. Once hatched, they each become a part of the nuclear system, so that even when released they keep coming back.

Fist Holding Money

This piece came to me while looking at George W. Bush face on the Dollar Bill. The thought of him and Dick Chaney investing in private prisons captures the capitalization of justice. The golden power fist holds the money to be made in prisons.

I have been locked in solitary confinement for over 25 years with limited access to the outside world. Despite my obvious indigency, I am tapped financially for music, calls, food, and more. I even pay a medical co-pay to McKesson Pharmaceuticals, the company that will also provide the drug to execute me.

Sold

Gary Butler (b. 1962)
Ossining, NY 

Facility:  Sing Sing Correctional Facility
Sentence:  36 years to life
Time Served:  30 years

Justice Scale Imbalance

As a jailhouse lawyer, I have filed many post-conviction motions on behalf of myself and others incarcerated with me. In response to every legal brief I submit, at least three assistant district attorneys are assigned to oppose me. Not only must I stand against the vast wealth and man-power of the district attorney’s office armed with only a typewriter, but my incarceration also appears to guarantee employment for this litany of lawyers.

 

Angela Sampson (b. 1985)
Spencer, WV

Facility: State Correctional Institution – Muncy, PA
Sentence:  8 months to 4 years
Time Served:  1 ¼ years

The Journey

This piece speaks to all I have experienced and seen in my journey of incarceration. The yellow brick road symbolizes the path we have chosen in life. We as human beings have choices and face the consequences that follow our choices. At times, we create tornados of hell for ourselves, trying to then escape them during judgement or, worse yet, once in prison. But the mind dies here; anger, frustration, despair burns like a fire that destroys one’s self and everything in her path. Meanwhile, the system only cares about money, not the lives that it destroys and even murders. They cannot deem a person innocent because the innocent cannot be commodified. So, they pull babies from mothers and sell them at adoptions. We’re left behind to just survive.


Francis Arbolay (Age 23)
Fitchburg, MA

Sentence: 5 to 8 years
Time Served: 3 years

Black Lives Always Mattered

My photo collage was inspired by current events and past histories of racial injustice that have shaped not only individual minds, but culture, society, and our country. Some well-known and others unknown, people sacrificed so that we could live fuller lives free from the commodification of our own bodies. And still the fight continues. Particularly as a bi-racial person, my respect goes to all those—black, white, Latino, Asian, and more—who fought or are fighting whole-heartedly for change.

 

Joshua McGiboney (Age 37)
Boise, ID

Facility:  Idaho State Correctional Institution – Medical Annex, ID
Sentence:  15 years to Life
Time Served:  11 years

Justice

Across America, justice has become a slot machine that we continuously feed hoping to see results, but from which we see no winnings. Like in Vegas, the machine is designed to take more than it gives.

My brother, Joe, did 10 years and was released without a home to go to or a job to earn money. He lost everything during his incarceration, so when he got home he lived on the streets. He moved around from city to city to try to get on his feet, but they ended up finding his body on the street a few months ago.

The system just chews us up and spits us out. The take everything possible from us and our families. My daughter spends what she could be saving to go to college to communicate with me through JPay and ICSolutions, while the IDOC is spending millions to build yet another prison.

John Shine (Age 53)
Bridgewater, MA

Facility: Old Colony Correctional Center, MA
Sentence:  Life
Time Served:  35 years

Time for a Change

Locked away from the public’s eye are the convicted masses society has failed with misdirected funds. They are hidden away and confined in a dark world, a colorless world where, like animals, they are sometimes forced to fight for basic, but seldomly met, mental and physical needs. We should be investing in rehabilitative programs and traditional education informed by applied social science instead of fueling the for-profit prison industry—a booming farce. It’s time for a change.




Marvelous (b. 1982)

Time Served: 16 years

State of New York Justice

Done on a standard-issue legal folder, this piece aims to depict an image emanating from the bench of a New York State courtroom. The “justice” system has replaced our educational system, betraying our children, disproportionately minority children, for money. Too many investments are made into our young people’s futures once crimes are committed, but few before. Instead of investing in our children in their youth, we’ve fast-tracked them to prison to grow up. Judges are selling New York’s youth to the prison industrial complex.

 

Michael Tenneson (Age 58)
Canon City, CO

Facility: Colorado Territorial Correctional Facility, CO
Sentence:  Life without parole
Time Served:  38 years

O Say, Can You See

With over 2.3 million people in prison nationwide the “land of the free” is not quite that. Faceless, nameless mothers, fathers, children, wives, husbands, and more are being warehoused in increasing numbers and held for longer and more futile sentences. All this to feed the cash cow: the prison industrial complex.


Ronald G. Leutwyler, Sr. (b. 1970)
 

Facility:  Central Prison, NC
Sentence:  27 ¾ years to Life
Time Served:  17 ½ years

Justice Thru Liberty for the Poor

Kennedy was a man loved by most and murdered for his belief in liberty.

 



Plank (b. 1988)

Facility:  Sing Sing Correctional Facility, NY
Time Served:  10 years

Common Cents

This is about the economic imbalance in the prisoner to prison relationship. Prisoners work for peanuts while other people thrive off their labor. The most egregious example is those who work on asbestos crews in prison, doing hundred-thousand-dollar jobs for pennies.

Shawndell Harrison (Age 42)
North West, Washington D.C.

Facility:  U.S. Penitentiary Florence - High, CO
Sentence:  15 years, 8 months
Time Served:  8 years

Hand Over Fist

 

Da’Shaun Lewis (b. 1991)
Savannah, GA

Facility:  Central State Prison, GA
Sentence: 8 years
Time Served:  6 ½ years

Everything Bleeds Oil and Blood

They say that tax payers spend more than $80 billion on prison. But on what? It’s hard to believe judging by the food we are served, the clothes we are provided, and the healthcare we receive. Add to that how much is made off our free labor; we save the system millions every month by running all basic operations from food service to clothing manufacturing. Basically, everything need within the prison is created or provided by us. So, why $80 billion? To line the pockets of politicians and finance their domestic and international wars. Wake up and stay up.



ESS (Age 40)

Facility: Franklin County Jail, MA
Sentence:  4 years

Sprout

Many of us think about how the system capitalizes on us. Although we may not win the war against the capitalization of justice, we win battles here and there by taking advantage of what limited programs exist in our facilities. So, while they capitalize on us, we can do our best to capitalize on what we have, sprouting new abilities and wisdom.

 

Johnny Nixon (b. ?)
Corcoran, CA

Facility: CA Substance Abuse Treatment Facility, CA

Kamala Goes to Washington

Gabriel (b. 1986)
Laredo, TX

No Mercy is the Best Business

This piece speaks to the indigency of prisoners and the financial struggle our families must bear to stay in touch with us.

I am currently in administrative segregation (“ad seg”) where I spend 23 hours a day in my cell. I’m allowed a five-minute call every 90 days, which runs roughly $20. So, I write letters, but I must borrow pens, paper, envelopes, and stamps from the state. I carry the debt on my account, which means that any time I get a fund transfer, it disappears immediately.

Here is the inside view of my solitary cell door. Two windows look onto the tier where staff escort other prisoners. But the real show happens in the slot below them. Everything passes through the slot: mail, clothes, commissary, food, light.

Today, my mom deposited $10. After they garnished my account, I only had enough to buy a bar of soap. In shock, I dropped the pen I needed to sign the purchase order. If I want to feel human emotion beyond the wall carvings of those who held this space before me, I’ll borrow again. Pens and paper will cost you, sometimes even the relationships you’re trying to protect.

 

Corey Devon Arthur (b. 1977)
Brooklyn, NY

Facility: Fishkill Correctional Facility, NY
Sentence:  25 years to life
Time Served: 22 years

The Justice Money Dance

Lady Justice have never been blind. She does her money dance with a get money scheme at play. The only equality that she delivers from her rugged scales is that she will incarcerate the unborn, born, men, women, and children, together and separate. When she does her money dance it turns on every corporation in America. Just in case exploiting prisoners wasn’t enough, she has a sick get money remix to exploit the loved ones of prisoners as well.


Lamarr “Starkim” Little (b. 1976)
Brooklyn, NY

Sentence:  25 years to life
Time Served:  19 years

Make America Hate Again

This illustration depicts the President’s overarching message: systematic oppression fueled by white supremacy and protected by the NRA. Today, America incarcerates the black and brown people that built it. With enslaved bodies replacing stars and their blood creating stripes, the American flag has gone from symbolizing freedom in its early days to symbolizing imprisonment.


Daniel “D.T.W. Sport” Wilson (b. 1976)

Facility: Great Meadows Correctional Facility, NY
Sentence:  7 to 8 years
Time Served:  2 years

Worthless Commodity

A faceless man, representing any one and all of us, stands in the darkness of a cell disassociated from reality. One arm hangs outside of his cell with the word “worthless” tattooed on the forearm because outside of the cell, he is worthless to the system—he has no value. The other arm, with the word “commodity” tattooed on the forearm, is inside the cell because there he is a commodity for the system. He holds an envelope addressed to the parole board with his hope to return to society. But, it’s been returned because the parole board won’t evaluate him on who he is now, just his past.

 



24601 (b. 1995)

Facility:  State Correctional Institution - Muncy, PA

Eric Lee Tedana (b. ?)

Facility:  Robertson Unit, TX
Sentence:  45 years
Time Served:  18 years

In God We Trust

Though the Department of Corrections skims some off the top, money falls freely for psychiatric medications for prisoners. It’s easier and cheaper to drug than to heal. Accompanied by a host of faceless administrators who sit silent and complicit behind the observation glass, the chairman supervises the excessive prescription of medications that drain the life out of prisoners into sewers where demons live. With money fueling this cycle, we must ask: Is it in God’s name we dole out justice and in “God we trust” to reform us or do we trust the corruptible promise of soulless bills?

#WeAllBleedTheSame

This work speaks to the dehumanization of incarcerated people and the currency of suffering that keeps this wasteful system full.

I like using hashtags in my work because they seem to be effective in summing up an idea, but also because it’s ironic. After all, I have never seen social media, where they’re used, in real life.

Bianca Tylek
New York, NY 

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Beneath the Surface

Every year more than 11 million people are locked in a cage, some for days, weeks, or years, and others for life. But each hour of their misery in confinement generates another dollar for the $80 billion industry dependent on mass incarceration. So, while lay conversations about criminal justice may focus on crime and punishment, I urge you to look beneath the surface.