Mothers Behind Bars Speak Out Through Art

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This image shows six works of art created by incarcerated mothers. (Credit: lsa.umich.edu)

This image shows six works of art created by incarcerated mothers. (Credit: lsa.umich.edu)

LauraBonell Laura Bonnell
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ANN ARBOR (WWJ) - Women behind bars at more than three dozen prisons around the country have put their voices into one large piece of artwork that’s now on display in Ann Arbor.

Lane Hall Gallery at the University of Michigan is hosting “Interrupted Life: Incarcerated Mothers in the United States,” an exhibit that features artwork created by inmates, as well as actual correspondences between incarcerated mothers and their children.

The centerpiece exhibit is made by women in 37 institutions around the country who have been locked up for non-violent offenses. Exhibit spokesperson Rickie Solinger said the women are not able to mother their children, and that’s the real crime.

“One of the things that really shouts out from the artwork is what are we doing? What does this incarceration system, in which the fastest growing population of incarcerated people are mothers of young children, accomplish?” Solinger said.

According to Solinger, the exhibit gives incarcerated mothers a chance to share not only their sorrows. She said there are so many rules for mothers in prison, including not being able to kiss their children or hold their babies, many are unable to keep a bond with their kids.

“It gives the women a voice and it also gives the issue attention. These are people who, in many communities, are invisible. In some communities they are thought about quite a lot, but in some communities, no,” she said.

Solinger said she hopes the work stirs discussion, pointing to the fact that outpatient drug treatment often costs a fraction of the amount to incarcerate someone.

The exhibit will be on display at Lane Hall Gallery, 204 South State Street, through August 1. For more information, visit www.lsa.umich.edu.

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