Spring 21 Online Prisoner Express Art Show

The opening date is May 27th. Link to be posted on the PE homepage on May 27th.

At Prisoner Express, we receive creative writing, art, and journals from incarcerated men and women from across the nation.

Their writing and art share perspectives and offer valuable insights into the current prison system. This year our annual Spring Art Show is virtual. While people coming to our in-person gallery is rewarding, this virtual show allows many more people to view the art.

The art selected for the show was received after quarantine began. We on the outside certainly experienced bouts of isolation and frustration during this time. In prison, lockdowns with no visits and no services became the norm. Writing and art are tools prisoners used to continue the valuable act of creative self-expression during unusually uncertain times.

As well as capturing all of the metaphorical masks prisoners wear just to get through the day, their artwork captures the hope that nature holds out for balance and healing. We receive hundreds of poems and artwork and a team of dedicated volunteers sorted through the submissions to share some that they found special and illustrative of the  COVID experience.

“Prisoner Express provides me with “connectivity” to the outside world, which is a very special experience while incarcerated. I enjoy reading all the submissions, and being able to submit a couple of my poems as well” 

– Joe Chumbler

We received thousands of poems from 450 participants hoping to be included in our latest Poetry Anthology Volume 24. Everyone who submits a poem for consideration is mailed a copy of the anthology. While we are advertising our art show, we will be including a viewing room in our online gallery for those who might enjoy some word pictures.

We hope in the coming weeks to add more to the show. We have 40+ participants who have just finished writing poetry chapbooks and we will select a few to highlight. We have many prisoners keeping journals throughout the pandemic and we will be linking journal entries to our online exhibit as well.

Presenting prisoners’ words and an understanding of the prison experience is part of the mission of Prisoner Express. The present-day system of corrections is not written in stone, and an active citizenry can ask and vote for change. Understanding the humanity of the people who are experiencing the effects of modern-day penal institutions motivates us to a call for action. Viewing the prison experience up close reveals it to be both ineffective and expensive. We need a system that offers opportunities for rehabilitation. It can be done.

We hope you will take the time to write a letter to one of the artists or poets we are featuring. A note of positive regard means so much to folks who feel forgotten or ostracised by society. At the show, you can learn ways to send mail directly, or you can register as a volunteer at PE and use our return address. We then scan the mail that arrives for you and email it to you. You do not have to reveal anything you do not want to. Speaking with past volunteers and prisoners I am assured that this letter sharing can be a powerful tool in creating connection, and giving prisoners hope for a better tomorrow.

At Prisoner Express we know our work is effective by the feedback we receive:

“Before closing. I would like to share my deepest gratitude for having been blessed by being introduced to Prisoner Express [ over a decade ago]. Your program has been a vital tool in my transformation. I will be seeing parole soon and will hopefully be home early next year. I have a lot of hopes, some very detailed plans, and a lot of motivation to remain free! To all of you who are a part of this stellar program, thank you. Your service does make all the difference in the world”

Blair Blanchette

I hope you will come to visit the show when we open on May 27th by visiting the links on our homepage. Transformation is possible. Change is inevitable. Witnessing the humanity of the incarcerated changes our perspective and informs our future decisions. Knowledge is power.

I just recently received my first issue of this amazing work of art, full of pain and survival; hope and renewal of the human spirit. I’ve struggled with finding a sounding board that totally encompasses the dark thoughts I so desperately fight against daily.

As I take the time to try to absorb each poem or story, the story of Joseph Green-“Nourishment” is the entry that brought me to tears. The raw honesty was breathtaking and even though parts of my own story are different, the ability to put pain into a visual healing picture that all people can relate to was humbling, encouraging, inspiring, and “hope” pulled me from lying depressed in my bed feeling a pity-party, and gave me the courage to write to you! [with all my run-on sentences and rushed vocabulary]

Thank you Prisoner Express, for all the volunteers and the entries that provide such heartfelt publications.” 

Shonna Calaway

Below are two art pieces that were not selected for the show. I hope you check out the work on display.

-Gary Fine


Miguel Arcos

Gary Farlow