Prison Style Art

By C.A.


Time is of the essence when it comes to today’s freelance artists trying to make a living, but time is all prisoners got when it comes to detailing his or her art while sitting behind bars. Since most artists in prison have limited access to art supplies, a convict must make the best out of their “Art tools”. Tools such as the ball point pen and generic color pencils.

But prisoners somehow find an alternative in creating drawings and paintings that mesmerize art lovers and people all around the world. Artistic jailbirds adopt the culture of prison life and select art as a way of expressing their anguish and loneliness.

One of prisons most general forms of art is the “panio”, ball point pen on a handkerchief. It customarily takes prisoner weeks to complete one. Just imagine using a ball point pen to carefully shade a cloth handkerchief with the delicate stroke of a pen.

As for a prisoners technique in getting maximum color out of the cheaply made color pencils sold in the prison commissary? Just add a dab of baby oil or petroleum jelly and the pigment should catch any surface as easily as any quality Primsa color pencil.

One fact remains, prison style art is appreciated. Rap and Hip Hop artists such as 50 Cents and Slim Shady highlight it on their album covers and tattoo it into their skin, while multi million dollar clothing companies such as “Affliction” and “Tap Out” screen print prison style art onto T-shirts that sell like hot cakes. The look is mysterious and is appealing to many.



To Hell & Back:

13 yrs in a Texas State Penetentiary


By: Unknown Prisoner

One night in 1994 while parked in my car with my girlfriend some punks randomly broke my car windows with bats and crow bars. I believe envy was their motive since I had never done anything to disrespect them. It was a miracle me and my girlfriend were able get away without getting seriously hurt or killed but my beautiful car was left beyond repair.

Angry I ran to my friend’s house and borrowed his semi automatic assault rifle.

Later the next day I found myself booked in the county jail for 3 counts of attempted murder and 2 counts of aggravated assault. I had gun down the entire group of gangsters, critically hitting one in the head. He didn't die but was left paralyzed neck down for life.

A jury found me guilty and sentenced me to 13 years confinement in TDCJ. My family was heart broken.

As the years passed my friends slowly faded out of my life, as did my girlfriend. The only people who stood by me were my family. From then on I realized that friends are only temporary while family is forever.

I was sent to one of Texas's worst state prisons, the Terrell Unit in Livingston Texas and the unit was on lock down because a prisoner had murdered his cell mate by beating him to death.

Then a prison gang declared war on a rival gang and a major slaughter erupted. I remember the first stabbing that I ever saw in prison was when this guy walked up to a dude who had stolen his commissary and just started stabbing him repeatedly in the face. I remember thinking to myself "So this is what prison is really like".

Living in such a place was stressful. I remember having to watch my back every where I went. I would sit back in the shadows and study the guards and convicts. Nobody really knew me, I was a silent presence. That’s the way to go when surrounded in a world of insane people. Yes prison is insane.

Prison is only as dangerous as you make it. If you keep out of peoples business you'll be alright. You might get into some fights every now and then. Besides, a good old fashion broken nose won't kill you. That sure beats getting shanked because you disrespected a prison gang, or killed at the hands of brutal guards.

Talking about guards, I never disrespected them. In fact many were good human beings. But I did get jumped by 3 guards because I refused to obey a direct order. I learned a lesson and realized that I had put myself in that situation for being in prison in the first place.

Rape, yes let’s talk about that ugly word.

Rape happens in prison but very rarely. I remember some bullies were trying to rape a young 19 year old kid. Nobody tried to help the kid out and it took me a lot of thinking before I decided to step up and get those fools off him. Many people thought I was stupid for doing that. In prison people just don't play hero unless they want to die.


I once saw a guy throw feces all over the face of another prisoner for nothing.

Prison is a very racist environment. Everyone’s a racist in the penitentiary... Whites are racist, Mexicans are racist, and Blacks are racist. The prison gangs are all based on race. Prison sucks.

I've seen murders too. . It was nothing like you'd imagine in the movies where murder looks so easy. Witnessing a real murder is actually a lot more unpredictable.

It's weird to see how hard a man will fight back to survive. It's not just one or two stabs and your dead, like in the movies. It's more like stab after stab, victim jumps up throwing punches, while the attacker continues stabbing him over and over again. Then the guards come running in and gas the whole place. The stabbed guy is full of blood but still fully alert, then taken to the hospital.

It's not until hours later you hear the stabbing victim died in the hospital of internal injuries caused by the ice pick shank.

While in prison, I read many books on philosophy, history, and spent many hours painting and drawing. Art and books served as tools to keep my mind off the ugly environment I was forced to live in.


Living in such a filthy environment sometimes depressed me so bad I'd cuss at God. I regretted doing that and believe God has forgiven me for that as well.

4 things kept my mind strong.

1. My family and their letters. Receiving those letters gave me hope and strength.

2. Books and newspapers. They helped improve my grammar skills and deepen my once shallow mind.

3. Exercise. Push-ups, pull-ups, squats and practicing my jabs on an old prison mattress.

I was finally released from that horrible Texas prison last year. I remember walking out feeling as if I was entering the Twilight Zone. I must have looked as pale as a vampire because people seemed to stare at me.

As I waited for the Grey Hound Bus in Downtown Dallas, I watched the people of a free society drag their luggage. Some had unhappy frowns on their faces and I felt like telling them to cheer up, after all they were all free.

But they probably wouldn't understand how 13 years of prison could make a person more thankful and less ungrateful.



La Carrucha

By D.R.A.

Her wheels glow from rage as she rolls down a hopeless alley of senseless warfare.

Her body is riddled with holes due to a lifetime of abuse.

Her tires claw at the pitted asphalt since it's slick with envy and deceit.

Her head lights shine bright with paranoia because murderous collisions are sometimes inevitable.

Her transmission is jammed in reverse because the war lords behind the wheel can't think forward.

Her trunk is loaded with black tar and twenty one kilos of grief.

Her bumpers are stained with the blood of fools who were provocative enough to get in her way.

Her passengers serve her outrageous demands like pawns do in chess.

Her doors are welded shut so that all who she possess,do till death do them part .

Her windshield is drizzled with the tears of mothers ,fathers, sisters and brothers.

Her motor runs on blood and screams the battle cry of the ancient indigenous warriors.

The road she follows is routed straight for failure and a life in prison.



Prison Art

Prison Art

Prison Art

Prison Art