Thursday, October 4, 2012

Friday night: take pictures for Tamms inmates

Posted By on 10.04.12 at 09:02 AM

  • TY10/School of the Art Institute of Chicago
A few years ago in the Reader, Jeffrey Felshman wrote about the extreme isolation experienced by inmates at Tamms, Illinois's only supermax prison. In the 13 years that the facility has been open, that isolation has been well documented: Tamms, where incarcerated men are kept in solitary confinement up to 23 hours a day, has been the subject of a photo series in the Trib, a long-running campaign criticizing its conditions, a human rights lawsuit by the MacArthur Justice Center, and the odd article here and there—here, most recently, by Steve Bogira, who wrote about the dispute between Governor Pat Quinn, who's proposed closing a roster of prisons, including Tamms, as an austerity measure, and downstate lawmakers and prison guards' unions, who are fighting Quinn's plan. AFSCME Council 31, which represents 302 Tamms employees, sued in August to keep the prison, and others on the chopping block, open; the issue's currently in the courts, with a temporary restraining order prohibiting their immediate closure.

Meanwhile the Tamms Year Ten campaign, which formed in 2008 to agitate for the reform or closure of the prison, is trying to alleviate some effects of the prisoners' confinement. TYT solicited from inmates requests for photos "of anything in the world, real or imagined." They're seeking volunteers to help fill those requests, which according to a press release "range from 'a brown and white horse rearing in cold enough weather so that you can see his breath' to 'a picture of my auntie's house on 63rd and Marshfield at 2:00 pm' to 'comic book heroes locked in epic battle.'"

Photo requests can be picked up Friday night at what's being called the Tamms Year Ten Campaign Office—the workspace of organizer Laurie Jo Reynolds, which will function for a few months as a public exhibition at the School of the Art Institute, of which Reynolds is an alum. The exhibit features the usual organizer's clutter, plus posters and art made for Tamms-related protests—TYT recently staged a protest with a group of Tamms inmates' family members holding signs reading I Am a Mom, after the striking Memphis AFSCME sanitation workers from Martin Luther King Jr.'s last campaign—and photos of every man who was in Tamms as of TYT's first legislative campaign, in 2008. Reynolds says the pictures will be accompanied by updates about the men's whereabouts, including who's been released from prison, plus the photos the men who remain in prison requested to have taken and "crosses and death dates for those who have died." The campaign office also hosts a display of the collected photos and a discussion at 2 PM on November 17.

Opening reception Fri 10/4, 4:30-8 PM. Through 12/21: Tue-Sat 11 AM-6 PM, Sullivan Galleries, School of the Art Institute, 33 S. State, seventh floor,

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