Maria Maneos is an artist and the founder of Brush With the Law. She first was acquainted with the harsh realities of incarceration in the U.S. when her son’s unlikely addiction to heroin inevitably led to his arrest, conviction and sentencing to prison for a non-violent offense.
Visiting him in jail brought to light the lack of—and for the most part nonexistent—rehabilitative programming. These programs are absent within most of our country’s overcrowded and overburdened prison system. Her son’s experiences shattered Maria’s illusions concerning the rehabilitative goals enshrined in the charter of correctional institutions. She soon learned that the inmates for the majority of the day have few emotional, educational, or social outlets. These are needed to help alleviate, and lessen feelings of self-defeat, depression, and cynicism. All of which ultimately further entraps them in a cycle of crime and drug addiction.
BEHIND THE BRUSH
About 10 years ago I took my son and daughter to visit Eastern State Penitentiary for the first time. We went to see how and where some “bad guys” were once sent to live. We spent the afternoon going from one cell to another and stumbling upon various artist installations that were on display. Not once did we think that any one of us would eventually be a person to sit behind bars.
My son, now twenty-four years of age has been in and out of the PA prison system for the past 5 years due to drug addiction, namely heroin. I remember him calling me the first time he was booked in our county jail begging me to come and bail him out.
News that your child is in jail is probably the second-to-most dreaded phone call a parent can receive. Until his call that day, I’d never known anyone who’d been in jail, at least not that I was aware of. And up until that point I didn’t think I’d ever want to know anyone that was.
Since then I have been learning a lot: not only about addiction, but the prison system in America, drug rehabilitation facilities, behavioral and mental health, and other various traumas affecting people today. Visiting my son in jail made me realize that most of the inmates are—for the most part—regular everyday people. People, who for one reason or another, made very poor choices at some point(s) in their life.
I decided that in some small way maybe my education in the fine arts could help bring about positive change, so I developed the program “Brush With the Law.”
– Maria Maneos