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Deadline: December 30th, 2016
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The U.S. now confines more than 2.2 million people in its prisons. This amounts to 1.2% percent of its population, more than any other country and eight times more per capita than Russia. Our incarcerated citizens have become a shadow nation, hidden and often forgotten. This shadow nation is supported by a budget estimated at 64 billion annually, or nearly 6% of our gross national product. Incarceration has become a big and rigorously privatized business. Our current approach has produced a profitable if brutal cycle: poverty and the absence of economic opportunity funnel individuals into crime, prisons militate against rehabilitation, convicts re-offend following release, and after arrest are returned to prison as compliant recidivists. As a result, U.S. recidivism rates are now at 68% and increase every year. In this environment, it’s hard to tell where justice ends and vengeance begins.

How did we get here? Starting in the 1970’s, our prison population underwent rapid and unprecedented growth. In 2016, we house 700% more prisoners than we did in 1970. This increase happened in spite of steady decreases in violent crime. The growth of the prison population was fueled by the mandatory minimum sentences of the “War on Drugs”, and the accompanying “tough on crime” legislation. Prisoners are now overwhelmingly African-American and Latino, and the majority have been imprisoned for non-violent offenses. Many struggle with drug addiction and mental illness. Prisons in a single state, California, now house more of the mentally ill and drug addicted than all of the hospitals in America.

As grim as this situation appears, there are proven and equitable models for reform. In rebuke to our badly broken justice system, Germany, Norway, Denmark, and Sweden provide examples of what compassionate, evidenced-based approaches to crime and punishment can accomplish. These countries achieve exceptionally low rates of crime and recidivism with lower total and per capita expenditures. All of them provide intensive rehabilitation programs for inmates in an environment modeled closely on the communities where they will be reintegrated. This is followed by extensive coordinated support services after release.

Any path to reform will begin with a demand for justice: justice for the incarcerated, for their families, and for communities devastated by the loss of essential members. We have reached a critical moment in the struggle for a better criminal justice system. It is crucial that the chorus of voices making this demand includes artists and that these artists be willing to wield the power of art to inform, to inspire, and to heal.

All media will be considered, open to all countries.

Curators: Pat Sparkuhl, Gregg Stone, Leslie Davis

Website link: http://occca.org/CALL-FOR-ART.html#incarceration

The Orange County Center for Contemporary Art (OCCCA) is an artist operated California non-profit corporation dedicated to the pursuit of professional excellence and freedom of expression in the arts. OCCCA is located in the Santa Ana Artist Village, which is home to several galleries, artist studios, restaurants, shops, and First Saturday art walks.

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