Painting Behind Bars
The idea to involve prison inmates and detainees in our mission has been around for many years. The Foundation for Hospital Art has painted in numerous county jails and prisons throughout the country, but until recently, we did not have a concerted effort to paint on a continuous basis.
In late 2010, Major General (Ret) James Donald, then the Chairman of the Georgia Pardons and Parole Board, and I sat down and developed an ongoing program where inmates from Phillips State Prison in Buford, Georgia would begin painting for others. At the core, we were looking for a program that would aid in the rehabilitation of inmates incarcerated by the state. We hold to the belief that every person, regardless of circumstances, has an innate desire to help others.
As the paint spreads from one brushstroke to the next, it is fascinating to witness the determination of an inmate whose singular focus is on brightening the walls of a hospital. The simple act of doing something for someone else is a spark in their recovery, with the ultimate goal of rehabilitating their souls as they prepare for eventual return to society.
We recently had the opportunity to involve Sandra Deal, the First Lady of Georgia, in one of the Phillips State Prison PaintFests. Immediately, you could sense that the inmates realized that they were taking part in something important. As Mrs. Deal spent time painting with each inmate, the optimism of the group grew, as a beautiful morning sunrise. By the end, the inmates grasped that their lives could be more impactful and that they could truly help others.
A PaintFest behind bars is not for everyone, but it is one example of how we are painting a brighter world. Redemption, love and hope can begin with a brush in one of the most unlikely of places. As each painting is donated to a healthcare facility around the world, there is an inmate that knows he has made a difference.