J o u r n a l  o f  P r i s o n e r s  o n  P r i s o n s
  Artists' Guild
"Although I have been washed up on the beach by the tide of social outrage, I continue to inch my way back, hoping that one day I will be able to reenter the waterway of our society. Samuel Johnson once said, "It matters not how a man dies, but how he lives". The act of dying is not of importance ; it lasts so short a time. If I don't accomplish all that I set out to do, I will have at least accomplished some of it. Hopefully, someone has benefitted from the drawings and writings that I have completed thus far. Should the state execution be the way that I must die with knowledge in my own mind that 'I'M NOT SCUM'!"
-James V. Allridge III, from JPP Vol. 6:1 (1995)
Artists' Guild

One of the most enjoyable editorial tasks is choosing the art for JPP covers. Prison arts and crafts have been prized for centuries, from the ship models and letterboxes produced on prison ships during the Napoleonic Wars to the Aboriginal carvings, and airbrush and acrylic paintings of today. The cover art images have been created in a number of mediums. Puerto Rican political prisoner Elizam Escobar's "A Weltanschaung" set the standard with the first issue, and once we were established, we had a wealth of materials from which to choose.
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Vol. 1 No. 1: " A Weltanschaung " (1986) ("world outlook")
by Elizam Escobar

Escobar was born in Puerto Rico; between 1968 and 1980 he worked in New York City as an illustrator for various marxist publications and taught in the city's public schools. In April, 1980 he was accused of belonging to the Armed Forces for National Liberation (Puerto Rico) and convicted of seditious conspiracy is serving a sixty-eight year sentence. Escobar writes:

Art and poetry, and their discourses, if they are for real, are always critical of Power: their politics is to transform reality and not to merely ideologize it. We should not pretend to possess truth or to have the only, unique truth. But as an artist or a poet with a critical consciousness is always uncompromising with Power in relation to truth, in order to be for a revolution and real democracy.

Vol. 1 No. 2: "Mountain Echoes" (1960) by Ralph Danton

When Mountain Echoes first appeared in September 1951, it was one of the six major penal press magazines being published in Canada at that time. It was produced at Manitoba Penitentiary continuously until the summer of 1965, operating in the relative obscurity of the Prairies, unlike Pen-O-Rama from Vincent de Paul or Telescope from Kingston/Toronto On the title page the editor's write:

Mountain Echoes is published by the inmates of the Manitoba Penitentiary...It is designed to provide inmates with an opportunity for self-expression and a medium for discussion of public problems, and in the interest of promoting useful thought and action within the institution.

We are using a reproduction of their cover for this issue to recognize the link between the history of the penal press and the Journal of Prisoners on Prisons, a history we seek to continue and expand - Howard Davidson

Vol. 2 No. 1: The Cover Art For This Issue Is A Compilation of Penal Press Publication Covers, by SPAV-MPS & Robert Gaucher

Vol. 2 No. 2: "The Shifter" (1989) by Norval Morrisseau

Born Ojibway, from Fort William, Ontario, March 14, 1931, Norval was raised by his grandparents near Lake Nipigan, Ontario. His grandfather followed traditional ways and was a major influence on his life and his art. His first exhibition was in September, 1962 in Toronto. Since then his work has been recognized nationally and internationally. In the Canadian Museum of Civilization, his work used to grace the entrance to the displays of Canadian Native Art. On April 25, 1979, Norval was invested by the Governor-General as a member of the Order of Canada. He currently lives in Langly, British Columbia. His desire to support the JPP stems, in part from his own experience of incarceration. He is considered by many as Canada's greatest Aboriginal Artists. He recently has been the first Aboriginal artist to be given a full exhibition, at the National Arts Centre (NAC) in Ottawa.

Vol. 3 No. 1 & 2 : "Prison Justice Day" by Peter Collins

Prison Justice Day is a day when people on both sides of the walls remember prisoners who died in prisons and express their protest to the oppression and function of the prisons by peaceful demonstrations, strikes, and fasts...Gaucher's history of August 10th shows that it was first organised by the Odessey Group at Millhaven Penitentiary. From there it spread to other prisons and groups outside. The penal press played a key role in that process. Gaucher's account illustrates the value of having publications which insure a forum for the kind of dialogue which will build events like August 10th and with them conscious unity." - Howard Davidson, Editorial Note

Vol. 4 No. 1 : " Untitled" (1992) by Tony Bashforth

Bashforth was born in Sheffield, England in 1956. He first realized his artistic talent at age 19 when, serving a Borstal sentence, he won an Arthur Koestler Award for Prison Art. Later, while serving an eight-year sentence, he won three successive Koestler Awards (1982-1984).

He has exhibited at the Crucible Theatre in Sheffield and the Hayword Gallery, London. His work is also represented in the prestigious Outsiders Collection in London. His pictures have sold in Britain and Germany.

Tony has recently completed an autobiography covering the period from his childhood to his release from prison in 1986... He describes his art as a safety valve and a means of survival, reflecting his physical and psychological experience.

Vol. 4 No. 2 : No title Available (1993) by Mark Harris

A Former Prisoner Located in Cincinnati, Ohio. This interesting sketch depicts a great deal in such a small space

Vol. 5 No. 1 : No Title Available (1993) by Dennis Okanee

He was born on November 17, 1957 on Thunderchild Band's territory near Red Deer, Alberta. In 1969, while he was staying with his foster parents, barking dogs drew him to a window where he saw a Native man going hunting, riding a horse pulling a travois. It was as if he had appeared out of the mists of the past, and this encounter led Dennis to develop an interest in traditional culture and art. However, it was not until he was serving a sentence in Fort Saskatchewan Provincial Gaol that he started to produce his own art work. This cover features a Cree shield, sixteen inches in circumference, made from hide, beads, bone, feathers, and paint.

Vol. 5 No. 2 : "En Nom De Dieu" (1993) by Gayle Horii

This art was created while Gayle was incarcerated in Kingston Prison for Women and at Matsqui Penitentiary. The artist explains:

The rationale used for torturing and burning women at the stake for witchcraft is identical to the patriarchal need for controlling all women. Each black flame signifies the many assaults directed towards the sexuality of women and particularly, towards women in prison. Her body is cut signifying the pain she has already endured and the injuries she inflicts upon herself when her despair and rage turns inward. The stake is invisible as are the ties that bind her, which signifies the covert manner used to impose added punishments upon women. She asks: Why? Still?

Vol. 6 No. 1 : "Piano Wave" (1991) by James V. Allridge III

Born to African American parents on November 14, 1962 in Colorado Springs, Colorado, James attended school in Fort Worth Texas. He was found guilty and sentenced to death for a robbery slaying on June 9, 1987 his first and only charge and conviction. On death row he became a self taught artist and now has over 300 works in private collections. His pen and ink illustrations have appeared in numerous newsletters in the U.S.A and Switzerland. C.U.R.E (Citizens United for the Rehabilitation of Errants) has used several of his illustrations for their line of all occasion note cards. Since 1993, James has produced his own line of Christmas greeting cards.

As a consequence of his confinement, James is a "copy artist" who relies on photographs and magazine illustrations to provide subject matter. Piano Wave drawn in coloured pencil, was first exhibited at a prisoner art show sponsored by C.U.R.E in Washington, D.C., in 1991. In May 1992, it placed second in original drawing that it was based upon, is by Barry Leppard and was published in December, 1988 issue of The Artist's Magazine, (Harian, Iowa). James Allridge was murdered by the state of Texas August 26, 2004 after spending 17 years on Death Row.

Vol. 6 No. 2: "Chilcot Moon" (1994) by Bryant Ross

Bryant Ross was born in Manitoba in 1951 and is of Scottish Canadian ancenstory. He grew up on the west coast of British Colombia. His friendship with the Canadian Native artist Norval Morrisseau reawakened his need for creativity and led him to open the Coghlan Art Studio, in Aldergrove, British Colombia in 1988. His work draws inspiration from his respect for traditional aboriginal culture and his love of primitive and contemporary aboriginal art. His work has been exhibited in galleries in Canada and the United States.

Vol. 7 No. 1 : (1993) by Micheal Doherty (Long Kesh)

Vol. 7 No. 2 : No Cover Art

Vol. 8 No. 1 & 2 :"Wolf Women (1993) by James Allridge III

This was his second JPP cover. At the time he had over 300 works in his private collections. His pen and ink illustrations had appeared in numerous newsletters in the USA and Switzerland. He was also an accomplished writer and had recently published a book of poetry and prose entitled Deadly Executioner (1996). Ronald K. Allridge, the artist's brother, was executed by the state of Texas June 8, 1995. On August 26, 2005 James Allridge was executed.

Vol. 9 No. 1: "The Poka Dot Keed" (1993) by Steven King Ainsworth

Steven King Ainsworth was born in Los Angeles, California on October 3, 1944. He began his convict career in 1968 and spent most of the next thirty years in prison. His last eighteen years have been spent on Death Row, at San Queintin, California awaiting execution for a crime committed in 1978.

Steven's fiction and non-fiction, poetry and art work have been published and exhibited in the USA and internationally. He is a self-taught artist. In his own words:

During my quarter century plus of confinement, I have always been drawn to creative endeavors in order to alleviate the boredom and stress of incarceration. The therapeutic value of creating something positive in the negative environment of prison is immense - Damned and Condemned, Steven King Ainsworth, Death Row San Quentin. June 16, 1998.

Vol. 9 No. 2: "Lifer's Dream" (1997) by Andre Latocuhe

Latouche was born in Quebec City in 1956. Interested in art since an early age, he has taken various courses while in prison, including design, graphic arts, pastels and air brush. In 1998, he obtained his D.E.C in Arts. Andre's work has been awarded many prizes in painting and design. His work tends to abstract modernism, with references to surrealism, symbolism and other styles. He works in many mediums, including pencil and ink, oils and air-brush. He is serving a life sentence in Laval. "Lifer's Dream," was awarded the First Prize in Painting by the Prison Arts Foundation in 1997.

"I consider this art as a voyage in the symbolism of a dream. The dream of a life sentence. I dream void of all logic and order. A detached imagination, a vision unfurling, confused in time and space. As a whole, giving the feeling like the crying out of a spirit which pours fourth its love, hate, its nightmares, its lost dreams, drowned in the true to life carceral system where the abnormal becomes the normal. This art demonstrates the negative transformation of the inner self and of the deterioration of a personality by the system."

Volume 10 No 1 & 2: Compilation of past JPP Covers

Vol. 11 : "Searching" (1998) by Bryan Semour .

Semour was born in York, Ontario in 1956. He became interested in art when he was about six years old, drawing cover art for assignments. While in prison in Ontario off between 1974 and 1984, he learned how to silkscreen and to paint with acrylics. Working with acrylics appealed to him because of the quicker drying time, less toxic smell, and versatility. The content of Bryan's work varies with the medium he works with. Also a carver, he finds inspiration in the lighter aspects of life; his paintings are inspired by the more somber aspects of his persona:

"There are many facets to who we are. We can pick up different pieces of who we are and find things about ourselves that we don't like. But if we throw them away, it affects who we are. In this painting I was searching for the different aspects of my personality. I was holding these up to the light, examining and reorganizing them. This is a reflection of my soul searching phase."

Vol. 12 : "Limelight" by James V. Allridge III

James' work has been exhibited in outside art galleries and in numerous forms, including art books, newsletters, and magazines. A regular contributor to the JPP, his award winning Piano Wave was featured in Vol. 6: 1 (1995) and Wolf Women was on the cover of Vol. 8 (1997).

Vol. 13 : "Solitude" (2004) by Brian Seymour

I Painted this about ten years ago, when I was working at home. Being in a busy family with two daughters, with many people coming over to the house all the time, it was difficult to get any peace. I needed time for my self.

This painting is about my search for solitude when chaos is happening all around me. I used one of my daughter's dolls as a model for the painting, and went from there.

Bryan's artwork has been displayed at different art shows in the lower mainland of British Colombia, and won an honourable mention at the Fort Langely Show.

Vol. 14:1 (2005). This cover shows Issue Editor Viviane Saleh-Hanna with Nigerian Prisoners who were involved with the issue

Vol. 14:2 "Inside Writing" (2006) by J. Christian Broderick

Vol. 15 No. 1:"Buji - free from fear" (2006) by Phil Horner

Vol. 15 No. 2/Vol. 16 No. 1: "Reins of Freedumb" (2002) by Kevin Rashid Johnson

My life began in rebellion and in a broken home. My parents separated while I was an infant. Although my father took custody of my sibling and me, he was almost never in the home because of his commitment, bordering on obsession, with rising from poverty into Amerika’s Black middle class. My primary care thus fell to my dear paternal grandmother, who was powerless to rein in my rebelliousness – especially that against my absentee father. When he did find his way home it was usually to repress my behavior with violence, to no avail. In turn I’d act out my own limited violence against increasingly larger opponents outside the home, which became a tendency to challenge bullies.

My father accomplished his career goals and tried to steer me in the same direction, but I had no interest in ‘success’ and the empty trappings that came with it. Despite my father’s years of sacrifice, including absence from his family’s life, none of the people I loved outside our immediate household reaped any benefits from our rise to status. I wanted no part of it.

Though routinely praised as being particularly bright and talented, I never made much of a career of school. I was repeatedly suspended and expelled, leading to a lengthy incarceration at age 11, ‘arranged’ by my father. Shortly after my return home, he an I fell out completely and irreparably in what nearly became a fatal situation. At that point I vowed to never again tolerate anyone’s attempts to control me with violence.

From then on, my life was marked by living on the streets, resisting the Establishment, and learning the ways of the world. After living what seemed several lifetimes of experience, I found myself in prison for life at age 18. In prison, I relentlessly warred with guards in response to their organized oppression, terror tactics and abuses targeted at me and my peers. My resistance consisted of counter-violence and ultimately litigation. I quickly learned the futility of seeking a savior in the Establishment’s institutions (the courts).

In 2001, my journey towards redemption began through exposure to and study of socialist revolutionary theory and history, beginning with the writings of George L. Jackson. I developed, refined, and contextualized my learning by applying it to the realities of my day-to-day life and experiences. I found my calling in the people’s struggle against capitalist imperialism and all its attendant oppressive features. I began compiling art and essays reflecting my ideological and political development, hoping to make what contributions I could from within these walls of confinement.

I continue to grow and develop an understanding encompassing methods of struggle toward building a world free of exploitation and division along lines of wealth, race, gender, age, sexuality, etc. A world where all life can co-exist as a community and interdependent whole. It’s my heartfelt desire to contribute all I can to help bring this world about. This new order can and must happen if we expect to exist even a few generations from now.


Vol. 16:2 "Rising Salts" (2004) by Dusty Roads

Dusty Roads is an established Aboriginal artist whose paintings have been exhibited in art galleries across Australia. Dusty’s art is rooted in the culture and traditions of his people. These paintings were created while he was incarcerated at Risdon Prison in Tasmania. “Rising Salts” was part of an exhibition, Behind Bars, at Art Mob Gallery, Hobart, Tasmania in 2005.

This painting should be viewed as looking from the sky. The green and brown background is the ground and bush; the white is the salt that is taking over the land. It is rising from under the ground. The circle dots are waterholes and the thin lines with white dots are what is left of the artesian water system due to the last hundred years of farming people sucking water out of it. They have just about used it all up and in its place is the water from oceans and salt water rivers that used to be fresh water rivers now flowing under the ground. The two snakes are before and after. The snake in red and yellow ochres is the past before farming; the purple snake with a salty middle is now. The two snakes fight for the future. It can go one way or the other. I’d like to believe that people can learn from their mistakes, but only time will tell. The future is in all our hands.

Vol. 17:1 "Spider & Fly" - August 10th Illustration (2004) by Peter Collins

Serving a life sentence in prison, Peter Collins knew he had to come to terms with the consequences of his actions and so dedicated himself to working for positive social change. Since the late 1980s, when the official position of the Correctional Service of Canada was that intravenous drug use, tattooing, and sex were illegal – therefore not happening – until today when prisoners continue to be denied access to clean needles and syringes, Peter’s tireless efforts to defend the health and human rights of prisoners have often led to strained relationships with prison officials, undermining his efforts to get paroled. While in prison, Peter earned an honours diploma in Graphic and Commercial Fine Arts, as well as a certification as a Frontier College ESL tutor. He is an Alternatives to Violence Project facilitator and Peer Education Counsellor. Peter was instrumental in setting up a Peer Education Office in his prison and has advocated on behalf of fellow prisoners on issues ranging from health access to employment. He also wrote a book helping prisoners prepare for successful and safe release into the community. Regularly donating his time, expertise, and artwork to numerous charities and social justice initiatives, Peter’s dedication has contributed to improved health and safety in the prison system, and by extension, in the community at large.

Since August 10, 1975, Prison Justice Day (PJD) has been observed annually in Canada. The movement began in Millhaven Institution to commemorate “the first anniversary of the death of Eddie Nalon, who had committed suicide while in solitary confinement in Millhaven’s SHU [Special Handling Unit]” (Gaucher, JPP Volume 3, p. 98). Over the years, PJD has been instrumental in promoting the human rights of prisoners including the right to freedom of speech www.prisonjustice.ca.

Vol. 17:2 "In the Dark" (2004) by Peter Collins

This is one painting in a series that attempts to illuminate life in prison.

Vol. 18:1-2 "PJD" (2005) by Neal Freeland

The medium is pen and ink. The picture shows a man leaning against the bars, with cuffs on his wrists. It was originally drawn in 1995 and used for T-shirts in Stony Mountain Institution. The piece has since been redrawn with additional shading details using newer pen and inks.

Neal Freeland is a Saulteaux artist and poet who spent 17 years in prison, and is currently living in the city, going to college, as well as continuing to work on his graphic novels and poetry. He is also writing a screenplay for his second short independent film. During his imprisonment he learned to write poetry, honed his skills as an artist and went to school. He also spent a large portion of his time as a peer counsellor, both professionally and as a volunteer. He has recently taken up swimming again (his first love), discovered movies all over again, and loves to watch almost any movie on the big screen. In September, he began his first of two years in a college Social Work program.

Vol. 19:1 "Fifteen Years to Life" by Anthony Papa

In 1988, I was sitting in my cell and picked up a mirror. I saw a man who was going to be spending the most productive years of his life locked in a cage. I set up a canvas and captured the image, which I named "15 to Life". In 1994, this self-portrait was exhibited at the Whitney Museum of American Art. New York Times art critic Roberta Smith wrote that it was an "ode to art as a mystical, transgressive act that is both frightening and liberating, releasing uncontrollable emotions of all kinds". In 1997, after 12 years in prison, I received executive clemency from Governor George Pataki. Upon release I began having exhibits and used my art as an instrument to speak out against inhumane drug laws.

I use my art as a means of visually translating the deep emotional responses of the human condition. My life choices forced me to discover my hidden artistic talent. In the same way, I try to make that intuitive connection with the viewer of my art by living through my work, breaking down barriers that separate us from truth.

Vol. 19:2 "Untitled" by Daniel

While the artist prefers to let people create their own interpretations of his paintings, he offers these brief highlights of the illustration. Although life is a net in which people depend on each other's support and on nature's generosity, we sometimes lose our sensitivity and our compassion. When selfishness corrodes our respect and consideration for one another, control and violence taint our relationships and render them oppressive. We then forget that we all have the same rights and in dividing ourselves, social chaos erupts with power prevailing in the hands of a few who crush others with their darkness, their evil silence, their macabre plans and their sinister laughter.

Daniel was born and raised in El Salvador. He was an undergraduate student in Fine Arts at the National University at the height of the civil war. He was detained and tortured twice as a political prisoner in the late 1980's in San Salvador, after which he and his family came to Canada as refugees. An artist, musician and actor, Daniel obtained a Performing Arts Diploma from a Canadian college and is a lay minister in a Christian church in Canada. Internationally, Daniel is a tireless supporter of youth art programs as well as an advocate for peace and social justice.

Vol. 20:1 "Reminder" by Jackie Traverse

This painting, of my arms in handcuffs, is called ""Reminder"". It is an homage to where I came from and a reminder to never go back. I am not ashamed of the life I have lived nor am I ashamed of my past. I honour my past, after all, it got me here.

Jackie Traverse is an Ojibway artist from Lake St. Martin First Nation and has served provincial time in the Portage jail in Manitoba. She completed a diploma in Fine Arts at the University of Manitoba in 2009. She works in mixed media producing pieces ranging from oil painting to sculpture. In November 2008, she won Þrst prize in the Peace Hills Trust annual Aboriginal art contest. Jackie is an advocate on the issue of missing and murdered Aboriginal women in Canada.

Vol. 20:2 "Think Down the Beast" by Thomas E. Parton

This original piece of art in one of three in a series designed to encourage the viewer to interpret the prison experience for themselves. From my point of view it is about the complexity of it all - looking at both sides of the coin. It is about what we lost over our lives in coming to prison. They are about the false romance some convicts often have with crime, fast money and distorted thinking. In the end, we do not see the beast until trapped inside its gut. And if you are one of the few fortunate ones, one day you get it and realize you alone are the key.

Thomas E. Parton was born in Wellsboro, Pennsylvania in 1958. A self-proclaimed country boy from head to toe, he graduated high school in 1977 from Canton High and served two years in the United States Air Force where he received an honourable discharge. Through the 1980s he began his involvement with alcohol and drugs, which cumulated into criminal activity and years of incarceration. While incarcerated he taught himself how to read and write music, as well as play guitar. He served his time doing art and leather craft, while also earning an Associates Degree from Penn State University in 1993. Having recently been granted parole, he plans to continue his education and earn a Certified Addiction Counseling (CAC) training accreditation to work as a drug and alcohol dependency counselor.

Vol. 21:1-2 "When harmony fails, I go to where the rock sleeps" (front cover) "And become" (back cover)
by Michael Lenza, PhD

The poem and paintings were done when I was serving time and was still in max. As prisoners we had little choice but to deal with the contradictions within - who am I? Events out in the free world or a mere policy change could redefine us and our sentences like earthquakes roving through time. It could knock down flat that head trip of who we believed ourselves to be. Problem is you cannot exist as a man or woman in any world without 'me' or 'I'. In that crush of the quakes knocking down our worlds we would regularly arise to create self once more - thereby become. Problem was, even in our hard faught for delusions of our lives, we knew more quakes were roving our world. Sometimes is was good for one hell of a laugh, other times not.

Michael Lenza, PhD, is an ex-convict who is now an Associate Professor of Criminal Justice at the University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh. He has published on the death penalty, research ethics, medical marijuana, a historical political view of the development of mass incarceration in the USA, as well as theory and research methods. He is currently working on the institutional foundations of violence in the American context, and utilizing postmodern autoethnographic theory and methods to provide voice to prisoners.