"On the Inside" Long-Lasting Impact - Oklahoma Center for the Humanities

“On the Inside” Long-Lasting Impact

In light of an exhibition at TU’s 101 E. Archer gallery, the Oklahoma Department of Corrections has invited a photographer with Poetic Justice in two of its prisons.

The exhibition, titled “On the Inside,” features poetry, paintings, sketches, craftwork, and multimedia pieces created by women incarcerated in Oklahoma and California.

Ellen Stackable, executive director of Poetic Justice, curated “On the Inside” with photographer Lisa Loftus. In 2014, Stackable co-founded Poetic Justice with the mission to empower incarcerated women to find their voice through poetic and artistic expression. Since then, the nonprofit has grown to offer writing and art workshops in facilities throughout Oklahoma, California, and Tijuana, Mexico.

Photographer Lisa Loftus took the inmate portraits featured in the exhibit. However, the portraits displayed in the exhibit only feature women incarcerated in California.

But the Oklahoma Department of Corrections now is granting Poetic Justice special access.

The Eddie Warrior Correctional Center (and subsequently, Mabel Bassett) agreed to allow Loftus and her camera to see inside its walls. After passing a background check, and submitting an equipment list for review, Loftus will build on her work in California, working directly with inmates in Oklahoma to capture their portraits and share their stories.

“I was delighted!” Stackable says. “The narrative about individuals who are incarcerated in women’s prisons and jails has historically been told from a point of view that is not representative of people who actually live the story of incarceration. More often than not, these individuals are defined by one day, one news story, and one picture taken the day of their arrest. … We at Poetic Justice believe in something much greater. … Everyone deserves to have a safe space to process trauma, heal wounds, and rewrite their stories.”

Additionally, thanks to Stackable’s efforts, some women from Community Corrections at Eddie Warrior were able to take a field trip to 101 E. Archer to visit the exhibition. Stackable says this is the first time the DOC has allowed incarcerated women to take a field trip like this. In between a writing workshop and some pizza for lunch, they talked with a group of women who were recently released from prison, discussing the value of artistic outlets in their own lives and the steps it took to readjust to life on the outside.

Poetic Justice hopes more inmates be allowed to take field trips like this in the future.

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