The fine art of punishment™ • The Barnes Collection and the Youth Study Center
Creating new traditions: subversive underground education at the ArtJail.
Visitors to the Barnes Collection may experience a frisson of fear as they see the young My First Prison® inmates "escaping" through concealed hatches, hidden doorways, and false walls as they leave the traditional classrooms and workrooms of My First Prison® and head downwards into the UG Center.
The education of our young inmates is one of our top priorities here at the ArtJail. The My First Prison® chain believes that vocational education offers the best return on our investment in our young people. We provide a wide variety of educational opportunities in our fields and factories, but even with the promise of a life of low-paying, insecure jobs with no benefits ahead of them far too many of our alumni will end up back in the criminal justice system and in adult prisons. While the unsurpassed imprisonment rate in the US has been a bonanza for private companies it is also a great and growing burden on tax coffers stretched thin by wars, corruption, and tax cuts, so we are forced to consider returning to a lower rate of imprisonment. Our "eggheads" tell us that the cultural forces that result in an inmate population that is disproportionately made up of low-income people of color are too deeply entrenched to respond to traditional programs of reform so we have set aside the basement level of the ArtJail complex for the experimental Underground Education Center.
A message from the Underground Education Center at the Art Jail:
The UG Center offers structured breaks for the students from the My First Prison environment. The Center is administered by a small paid staff but the majority of the teaching/mentoring is carried out by volunteers, with a volunteer/student ratio maintained at at least 1 to 1. The Center is structured around the ideas of Free School Movement and restorative justice: if provided with love and respect on an individual basis and given enough tutoring in the social skills necessary to interact respecfully with other children, the kids will form community attachments that will generate valuable learning opportunities for all. Because of the unusually high numbers of difficult and even dangerous children in our student body we can't offer the same level of freedom of movement as traditional free schools, but we believe that our constant one-on-one mentoring and support offers many of these kids the best chance they have to escape the cycle of imprisonment and reimprisonment that many of them would otherwise be caught in.
The Center is experimental in structure and is always changing to meet the challenges offered by new students.
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