Londoner, artist, playwright and former prisoner, Dean Stalham is driving a new project to demonstrate the power of art as a means to rehabilitation.
Made Corrections aims to bring art into the lives of young offenders and bridge the chasm between life inside and the world outside, spreading the message "that we have a universal responsibility to young vulnerable people, irrelevant of creed, colour, nationality or culture. Everyone needs and deserves art in their lives".
Stalham is collaborating with street artist JR's global participatory art project Inside-Out - recently seen in London at Somerset House - which encourages people to tell "untold stories and transform messages of personal identity into works of public art" through large black and white portraits pasted up as posters in the public realm.
Made Corrections isn't starting with young offenders in London, however. Last year Dean and his team travelled to Lithuania to visit Kaunas Correctional Facility, a prison for young male prisoners where there are few extra-curricular activities. Lithuanian photographer Donatas Stankevicius took portraits of 41 inmates, many of whom had never experienced being photographed before.
One subject recently wrote a letter to the project saying, "initially I did not believe in myself, it was uncomfortable but the photographer's kind words, good mood, sense of humour and his personal ability to make us speak did what had to be done … I became myself, a person that I wanted to see - funny, joyful and full of life." The boy is looking forward to seeing the posters which will return to Kaunas and be pasted up both on the bare walls inside the Correctional Facility and around the city on the other side of the walls. He writes that since he got involved in the project he has been inspired and "everyday life is turning into a celebration".
In addition to making Inside-Out happen for Kaunas, Made Corrections will be paying an artist to to go into the facility once a week for year to teach inmates urban art and photography and help source work placements for them on release. The project has the support of the British Council and British Embassy in Lithuania as well as the Lithuanian Embassy here in London.
Once the life-changing nature of Made Corrections can be demonstrated, it is hoped to mirror the project in British prisons.
Like the photos, like the concept? Made Corrections had its UK launch at a pop-up exhibition in West Bank Gallery, Notting Hill. There were so many people interested in buying the portraits that Dean has set up a crowd funding initiative. Donate to the project and you will receive a photo.