Jailhouse Tech in the Spotlight

soap_chess_small.jpegGuys in jail can be pretty crafty, pretty creative. Get someone who's done real time talking, and, sooner or later, you'll hear stories about makeshift water heaters or MacGyvered-up toasters.A couple of years ago, I was sent a book by "Angelo," a guy in jail who wrote a book detailing all the jury-rigged contraptions he found behind bars. Here's some of what I wrote about Prisoners Inventions in Wired News:

[The book] shows how inmates fashion dice from sugar water and toilet paper, dry bologna jerky on jail-house light fixtures, [and] turn hot sauce bottles into shower heads..."This gives a glimpse into the everyday lives of the outrageous number of people we have in our prison system," said [Chicago-based art group] Temporary Services' Marc Fischer, who first started trading letters with Angelo in 1991. "And it's a celebration of the creativity that comes in response to their restrictive environment."In the movies, "prisoners only create things to escape, get high or kill each other," Fischer notes.Angelo's objects show a more banal, more human side of locked-down life: one where soda cans filled with rocks become crude alarm clocks and inmates cool their drinks in toilet bowls.
fifi_small.jpegFor a while, now, Temporary Services has been building the tools based on Angelo's diagrams, and showing 'em off in art galleries.This month, they're back in Chicago, at the I-Space.Then, in the Spring, the Prisoners' Inventions head to San Francisco's Yerba Buena Arts Center. The show has 13 new drawings from Angelo.Two of 'em I've linked here: one for a chess set made of soap (above, right), the other (left) for a little jury-rigged, jailhouse companion.
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