Welcome to the newest gallery in JAC’s Gallery of the Month series, where we showcase a wide range of art and writing under unique monthly themes. Check back on the first of each month for a new collection of works by the talented artists in the JAC network. To view past galleries of the month, see our Gallery Archive.
We hope you enjoy this month’s gallery: Green Gallery.
As conversations about climate change and mass incarceration become more widespread, it is essential to better understand the ways in which these mechanisms of oppression are connected. Mass incarceration’s subsistence requires industrial development in order to produce new prisons and maintain existing ones, which ultimately leads to increases in fossil fuel emissions. In fact, 32% of state and federal prisons are located within three miles of federal Superfund sites, highly contaminated areas which increase the rate of serious illnesses such as cancer to those in their proximity. Additionally, increases in extreme temperatures nationwide have had a detrimental effect on incarcerated people, who are even more vulnerable to extreme high and low temperatures due to poor facility infrastructure, the nature of the physical labor expected of them, and the impact of taking prescription medications that are not temperature controlled. The dangerous living conditions produced through improperly addressing both climate change and mass incarceration are of particular concern, and more thorough research needs to be published to amplify the realities of this problem to a wider audience. A report by the Prison Policy Initiative (PPI) highlights the fact that incarcerated people disproportionately come from economically disadvantaged, criminalized communities, which also bear the greatest burdens of environmental injustice.
It is imperative that we reimagine a world where mass incarceration and climate change can be adequately addressed, and work to undo the damage caused by both systems. The intention of this month’s gallery is to highlight the ways in which the artists in our network imagine the natural environment through their work. The art spotlighted in this gallery includes depictions of people socializing within landscapes, blossoming plants, animals, and more odes to the natural environment. In engaging with this work, we hope that you are able to reflect on the role of the prison industry in accelerating climate change, and can better understand the serious implications this has for people on the inside.