...let these stories, these poems, these testimonies, these songs from behind bars, serve ever to remind us of the people we are locking up — men and women who are, for all they have done and that has been done to them, our brothers and sisters.”
- Junot Diaz
Prison has been a fertile setting for artists, musicians, and writers alike. Books describing the prison experience, including the Autobiography of Malcolm X, have inspired audiences around the world and encompassed a wide range of literary styles.
This tradition continues at San Quentin Prison where the writing collective Brothers in Pen have just released a new Anthology titled “Six Cubic Feet.” The anthology is a collection of short fiction stories and memoirs by eighteen members of the collective and is available for purchase on-line from North Block Press at lulu.com. It is the sixth volume released by Brothers in Pen since there inception in 2006.
The range of subject matter in Six Cubic Feet is as wide as the imagination – illuminating all aspects of struggle and the human experience. These are stories about loss, failure, revolution, science fiction, success, pain, wonder, pride and love. These are stories about men who had made mistakes, men who had sacrificed for their families, men who were trying to envision a new and different world.
The foreword for Six Cubic Feet was written by Pulitzer Prize winner Junot Díaz, author of The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao. Junot visited the collective several times during the writing of this most recent book to help inmate authors flex their narrative muscles and free their inner voice.
The Anthology is a culmination of over a year’s worth of labor by these men, many of them Lifers, all serious writers. All proceeds from the sale of this book go through the William James Association to support this creative writing class through the Arts-in-Corrections program.
The members of Brothers in Pen would love to get feedback from the general public about their work. You can leave comments for the authors by sending an email to email@example.com.
Arts in Corrections Programs
Brothers in Pen is part of a larger movement to bring arts into the prisons. These programs create opportunities for prisoners to participate in theater, painting, music, writing, and film production. Many in the movement believe that arts programs help inmates develop a sense of accomplishment and self-esteem, which are vital for a successful reintegration back into society.
This belief is backed up by a pair of university studies in the 1980‘s, which showed that participation in arts programs reduced incidents of violence within prison by 75-81%. A more recent qualitative study in 2010 by University of San Francisco Professor Larry Brewster, corroborates these findings.
A California Department of Corrections report also showed that participation in Arts in Corrections programs could reduce recidivism rates by 27%, potentially saving taxpayers millions of dollars.
Unfortunately, support for arts programs in prison have been gutted at the state and federal level. The work still continues, however, through the determination of volunteers and non-profit organizations. With the need for programs to accommodate the multitude of prisoners who want and need to change for the better, organizations like the San Quentin Arts In Corrections program and the William James Association deserve everyone’s support.
The guidance, experience, opportunity and rehabilitative prospects these groups offer to prisoners and the general public are outstanding and necessary.