THE LONG TERM

Between 2016-2018, artists, writers and members of the Prison + Neighborhood Arts Project created a series of thematic works around long-term sentencing policies and the other long terms they produce: long-term struggles for freedom, long-term loss in communities, and long-term relationships behind the prison wall. These projects emerged out of classes and collaborative work at Stateville prison, where people are serving extraordinarily long prison terms (60, 70 and 80 years), often for crimes for which they would have already been released, had they been sentenced 30 years earlier, or in a different country.

Implemented in the 1990s and 2000s, long-term sentencing policies were ushered in as bipartisan reforms and an extension of the “tough on crime” logic. Recent state and federal efforts to reduce mass incarceration have focused on “non-violent drug offenders.” However, if the United States were to free all people incarcerated for what are called “non-violent offenses,” mass incarceration would still stand at just over 700,000, and the racial disparities of criminalization would be even more evident. While freeing people is cause to celebrate, these proposed reforms neglect half of the nation’s state prison population and forget that at one time, long-term sentences were not the norm. The Sentencing Project reports that 1 in 9 people in prison are serving life sentences, and 1 in 7 have sentences of 50 years or more. People locked in, or headed to, maximum security prisons are marked for death-by-incarceration.

The Long Term includes body of creative work that includes: a 13 minute hand-drawn animation made by artists serving long-term sentences; a series of video interviews with people impacted by long-term sentencing; an audio installation documenting a conversation among formerly incarcerated leaders about carceral policy; a portfolio of risographic prints made by 15 Chicago artists; a series of miniaturized “survival kits” for the long term, made by artists surviving long term sentencing and a series of works on paper. 

Each of the below parts of this project represent one of the many ways we seek to make visible how punitive policies and incarceration shape our communities, families, and ultimately, life-chances.

Artists:

Aaron Hughes
Andres Hernandez
Andres Reyes
Brandon Shaw
Charles McLaurin
Chester Brost
Claire Pentecost
Damon Locks
Danny Coston
Daniel Scott
Darrell W. Fair
Dave Pabellon
Devon Daniels
Doris Sterling
Elton Williams
Eric Anderson
Eric Garcia
Elizabeth Brent
Flynard “Fly 1” Miller
Francisco “Paco” Estrada
Fred Sasaki
George Gomez
Gerald Reed
Ivan Arenas
Jason Muñoz
Joseph Dole
Joseph Sorrentino
Johnny Taylor
Jose Chavez
Maria Gaspar
Michael Sullivan
Monica Trinidad
Nicole Marroquin
R Dot Nandez
Raul Dorado
Raymond Nesbitt
Rob Shaw
Ryan Griffis
Sam Kirk
Sarah Ross
William Estrada

LONG TERM STUDIES

A series of works on paper comprise of a visual vocabulary developed as research and preparation for The Long Term animation. Using watercolor, pen and pencil, artists highlight slang terminology for long and life sentences. Experimental graphs, charts and images represent the numbers and percentages of who serves long prison terms. The color and design is a dramatic departure from the otherwise orderly and typical graphs—indeed this data represents not some distant, studied population, but the life of the artists themselves. 

Raymond Nesbitt
Raymond Nesbitt
Raymond Nesbitt
Michael Sullivan
Joseph Dole
Jose Chavez
Jose Chavez
Johnny Taylor
Johnny Taylor
Johnny Taylor
Joseph Dole
Francisco “Paca” Estrada
Francisco “Paca” Estrada
Francisco “Paca” Estrada
Flynard “Fly 1” Miller
Flynard “Fly 1” Miller
Flynard “Fly 1” Miller
Eric Anderson
Eric Anderson
Devon Daniels
Devon Daniels
Darrell W. Fair
Darrell W. Fair
Darrell W. Fair
Chester Brost
Chester Brost
C. McLaurin
C. McLaurin
C. McLaurin
Bring
Bring
Bring
Bring
B.R. Shaw
B.R. Shaw
B.R. Shaw

RISOGRAPHS

This portfolio of risograph prints designed by 15 Chicago artists who responded to an essay written for a book titled “The Long Term: Resisting Life Sentences, Working for Our Freedom.” This work offers a powerful visual language alongside the words written by incarcerated and formerly incarcerated people, scholars and activists who resist the long reach of the prison nation. This project was supported by Dominican University.

Dave Pabellon
William Estrada
Sarah Ross
Sam Kirk
Ryan Griffis
Nicole Marroquin
Monica Trinidad
Maria Gaspar
Ivan Arenas
Fred Sasaki
Eric Garcia
Elizabeth Brent
Damon Locks
Claire Pentecost
Aaron Hughes

ANIMATION

The Long Term is a hand-drawn animation developed by artists serving long-term sentences. The video uses personal narrative and research to describe the scale and impact of long-term sentencing policies. The work tells the stories about the fear of dying inside, the feeling of being programmed by prison and the impact on family life, from the perspective of 11 artists serving life or long term sentences.

INTERVIEWS

A series of video interviews shares stories by people impacted by long-term sentencing. Orlando Mayorga spent 20 years in prison and tells the story of bonds and family built in prison after years and years of being locked up together. Marshan Allen recounts his long struggle of legal appeals and changing laws that eventually freed him from a life sentence. Julie Anderson, mother to a son who was sentenced to life, shares her experience of parenting a child in prison and maintaining intimate family bonds over two decades of her son’s incarceration. Julian Thompson describes some of the political stagnation to change long-term sentencing policy, and the structural inequities people face after prison.

AUDIO INSTALLATION

An audio installation documents a conversation among formerly incarcerated leaders about carceral policy. Audiences can sit around a set table to drop-in on the conversation. Eight plate settings line the table, each plate has a quote from speakers heard in the conversation.

SURVIVAL KITS

A series of miniaturized “survival kits” for the long term made by artists surviving long-term sentencing offers a view of essential items for each artist. Small sculptures made of everyday materials depict material things people in the free world might not think twice about. In one “kit” the artist includes a chocolate bar saying it allows “a small sense of normalcy, freedom.”

Doris Sterling
Chester Brost
Jason Muñoz
Chester Brost
Raul Dorado
Daniel Scott
George Gomez
Gerald Reed
George Gomez
Joseph Sorrentino
Chester Brost
Chester Brost
Raul Dorado
Danny Coston
Raul Dorado
Elton Williams

PUBLICATIONS

PNAP members published an anthology of essays reflecting on long term incarceration titled The Long Term: Resisting Life Sentences, Working Towards Freedom (Haymarket Press, 2018, ed. Alice Kim, Erica R. Meiners, Jill Petty, Audrey Petty, Beth E. Richie, Sarah Ross). Learn more or purchase a copy here.

PNAP also produced a free, downloadable guide on long term sentencing policy edited by former PNAP student and current paralegal Eric Blackmon and PNAP Co-Director of Arts and Exhibitions Sarah Ross. View and download the guide here.

Exhibitions and Events: 

  • 2020

Picturing the “Long Term”
Screening and discussion
The Block Museum; Evanston, IL (virtual event)

Pivot Arts Festival: The Long Term
Screening and discussion
Illinois Humanities; Chicago, IL (virtual event)

2019

Walls Turned Sideways
Institute for Contemporary Art; Houston, TX
Tufts University Gallery; Boston, MA

The Pencil is the Key
Drawing Center; New York, NY

The Long Term
Compound Yellow; Chicago, IL
Art on 51st; Chicago IL
Dominican University Gallery; River Forest, IL

Envisioning Justice
Sullivan Galleries, School of the Art Institute of Chicago; Chicago, IL

2018

The Long Term
Washington Park Arts Incubator; Chicago, IL