The Porter County Jail Art Gallery: Crime, Punishment, and Society According to the Other Side

Mike Johnson, Valparaiso University
Amy McFadden

This project is a photo-documentation of artwork created by detainees at the now vacant Porter County Jail in Valparaiso, Indiana. This artwork consists of drawings (made with pencil, pen ink, scratching, and other small objects with removable color) on the walls and ceilings of the jail. These photographs (over 100) have already been shot and developed and now serve as our qualitative data set. Our objective is to identify possible symbolic messages contained in the artwork and consider their relevance to philosophical, theoretical, and empirical arguments made in criminology and criminal justice. Through this analysis, we hope to gain possible insights into the lives and worldviews of persons in trouble with the law. The artwork uncovers both consistencies and contradictions in terms of the symbolic imagery we might expect from persons in jail, and we hope to show that although they often defy mainstream morality, they also often believe and value the same things that "we" do.

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Updated 05/20/2006