Isaac Scott, founder of the Confined Arts, sits in his studio. "Mental health is stigmatized in this space. If I show you the scars of my incarceration, it’s only going to make you have more judgments," Isaac said. "I’m carrying two stigmas simultaneously. You feel like you have to show your best self coming home, wear these masks. You can’t show the trauma. That becomes more emotionally distressing." Art gave him a space to express his emotions
Experts and advocates have long touted the beneficial role of arts programs in the criminal justice system, both as an outlet for incarcerated people to express themselves while behind bars and an important element of the rehabilitation process once they’re released. And while the COVID-19 pandemic may have limited the intimacy of prison and reentry arts programs, many found ways to continue to teach, appreciate and showcase the work of incarcerated artists even during the crisis, by transitioning to virtual and solo lessons.