Bar codes: artworks by inmates of Long Bay Gaol

Chris was serving 16 years in maximum security at Long Bay for armed robbery.

Chris’s father was in gaol, and Chris followed in his footsteps. His father committed suicide after escaping from gaol by holding a prison guard at knife point. Eight years ago, Chris joined the Malabar Art Unit (Malabar Special Programs Centre - Maximum Security Section, Long Bay). Chris said the program was his salvation.

'Violence came early, shadowed by hardship
My prison cell, what a good place to hide
Returning held no fear
No responsibility given or taken
Floating through maximum security
What a life’

'Then came Art so demanding
At last a challenge
A fear I won’t be liked
The need for praise to hear I’m worthwhile
I look through different eyes
At a world once despised.’

Terry has been in and out of gaol since 1972. In 2001, Terry met one of his sons for the first time in 23 years. Terry finished his sentence in 2001, and this time he wants to stay out. To Terry, his art is his sanity. 'Doing art makes me forget where I am’, he said. Terry was eligible to be moved to minimum security, but decided to stay in maximum so he could remain in the art program.

The Malabar Art Unit has been running since 1986. Program Coordinator, Sue Paull explained that the ten inmates involved in the program apply from gaols across the State. There is a waiting list of eight to ten months. The majority of participants have never had any training in art before. Now they are producing work of such high quality that four former program members have been accepted into arts schools including the National Art School and the College of Fine Arts in Sydney.

Bar Codes, an exhibition of works by artist inmates from the Malabar Art Unit (Malabar Special Programs Centre, Long Bay Correctional Complex), was on display at the Justice & Police Museum until the 4 November 2001. The works on display reflected the experiences of these artist inmates during their years inside. Bar Codes was an exciting and powerful exhibition, confronting the contradictions of life in prison.

8 September 2001 - 4 November 2001

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