Artistic Expression in Prison

So about this Jscam thing…

They sent a blast email to the captive audience of their “customers” in California, Kentucky, Georgia, New Jersey, North Dakota, Ohio, and Washington telling us all about the great exciting life changing news… They (the Jscam company also known as is putting on a “summer art contest.”

Essentially, they want us incarcerated folks to draw them pretty summertime drawings, send them to our people, have our people scan them and post them to the Jscam web site. Jscam will then post all the entries they deem acceptable to their Facebook page for no sufficiently explained reason. After that the Jscam art director (whom I imagine feels much like a Gogifrinchen advertising executive comparing moodily lit tubes of toothpaste) will pick the first, second, and third place winners. The winners don’t win anything! Instead, the person who submitted the work of art in the behalf of the artist in prison will receive a Walmart gift card.

So it’s bad enough that this company sells us ebook readers for $80-$120 bucks that don’t read ebooks, overcharge us for music, make us pay 5-10 bucks for games in the Google Play store anyone on the outside can download for free or 99 cents, and charge us 17 cents for emails which are limited to 6,000 characters each. It’s not enough that their monopoly allows them to rip off people in prison and our friends. No, now they are actively encouraging our friends and family to take advantage of us while getting themselves a nice chunk of original prison art they can make a tidy profit from.
It gets better and better. The deadline for submission is August 31st and the “prize winners” are announced on September 5th. Right in the middle of the national work stoppage I was talking about before. This means that people who are choosing to participate in the work stoppage are forced to choose between submitting a piece of art to this contest for a chance at getting $300, $150, or $50 for their family, or standing by their principles. Granted it’s a slim chance, only three winners out of seven states worth of entries. But that doesn’t stop people from buying lotto tickets, so I don’t imagine that will have much effect on a given individual’s decision making process here.

Me personally, I can’t say I’m not tempted to enter something. I’m seriously not an artist and there is no way I could possibly win. However, all accepted entries will be posted on the Jscam Facebook page. Sounds like a great way to get some free advertising. Don’t ya think?

This kind of dilemma is common to all people in prison that are trying to throw their voice out into the world and be heard. Art, poetry, writing, doesn’t matter. The barriers in place create a situation where incarcerated creative types are nearly guaranteed to be taken advantage of. We can’t simply do for ourselves. To not be dependent on the state means automatically being dependent on someone else. If one of us is lucky enough to get a book deal or something of the sort we cannot negotiate from a position of strength because being offered pay for our work is so rare and with the digitization of the world, we are excluded from participating in the market due to our word processors being stuck at 1970s level technology, a typewriter that goes “beep” if you misspell a word and can only store fifteen pages of text. People that paint and draw have many similar issues, limitations on allowable art curio supplies make life difficult for them as well. Sculpting and material crafts are not allowed.

In essence, what I am saying is easily summed up by the following: if you truly wish to find out if someone is evil, learn if they sing, dance, draw, paint, write, dream, or otherwise “do art.” If they don’t, and especially if they make it difficult for others share in their art, then odds are they are evil.

The PIC, Wa DOC, and corporations like Jscam make it very hard to “do art” and harder still to share it.

Three guesses what I think of them?


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s