A New York exhibition featuring the artwork of Guantanamo prisoners has sparked calls by the US Department of Defence for a review in the policy which gives the Cuban jail a claim to the drawings, paintings and sculptures created in their art classes. The prison houses around 50 prisoners suspected or convicted of offenses relating to terrorism. If the policy is changed, the art created by the prisoners in the state sanctioned lessons (which we started by President Obama in 2008), will now be the property of the American government.
Whilst the policy is under consideration, no art pieces will be allowed to leave the island. The 36 artworks submitted to the exhibition, were mainly loaned by lawyers who received them as gifts or who have been entrusted with their safekeeping. Several of the exhibition pieces are now up for sale and it is this that has caused the Pentagon’s concern. The exhibition’s curators claim that the only pieces that are up for sale are works by former inmates that have be cleared of all charges. One former detainee artist who wrongly served a 15-year sentence in the jail is selling a piece as he needs the money to pay for family medical expenses.
The organisers of the exhibition have created a petition to challenge the policy review, however there are few legal provisions to protect the civil liberties of inmates.
Fine Art and Art History applicants should consider the impact and humanising quality of artworks created by prisoners and criminals. Future law students should consider the rights of those that are or have been incarcerated in this controversial prison.