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Incarceration is a major problem in the United States. It is a very complex system influenced by politics, ethnicity, poverty, social justice issues, and collective human experiences. Despite it complexities, its understanding by the general public is simplified and sensationalized by the media—prison, its workers, and residents are usually negatively stereotyped and stigmatized. The idea of incarceration only becomes tangible and familiar when a family member or friend that is close to you is directly affected. In this paper I use the qualitative research method—autoethnography—to present a personal narrative about my experiences as a family member affected by incarceration, and as a Master’s Degree art therapy student who has various experiences working with the prison system. My aim is to shed a more subjective light on the prison system as it relates to literature and the media. In this research, I am both participant and researcher—in this thesis, through reflections of my personal narrative, I am able to question the conceptions of the general public and policy makers on the prison system and discuss them from my point of view and what is known from the literature. Through this thesis, I am able to add to the many stories of persons who have been personally affected by the prison system either directly or indirectly. Through the use of autoethnography, I’m afforded the space to discuss the very pressing need for more research in correctional settings that will effectively change the prison system and how an art therapist like myself can begin to create change.
A Thesis submitted to the Department of Art Education in partial fulfillment of the Master of Science.
Includes bibliographical references.
David Gussak, Professor Directing Thesis; Marcia Rosal, Committee Member; Theresa Van Lith, Committee Member.
Florida State University
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