‘Health Inside: Thinking About Prisoners’ Right to Healthcare’ is a new public art project due for exhibition in June 2018, which will focus on health and welfare provision in Irish and English prisons.
‘Health Inside’ is funded by the Arts Council of Ireland as part of the Open Call programme. The Open Call programme funds one off ambitious artistic projects by some of Ireland’s leading artists and arts organisations. This project was selected for funding as one of eleven innovative arts projects by a panel of international judges.
The successful projects were announced by the Minister for Arts, Heritage and Gaeltacht, Heather Humphrey and the Director of the Arts Council of Ireland, Orlaith McBride, at the official launch of the programme in Dublin last week.
The art project will be led by Dr Sinead McCann, Visual Artist, who made the successful application as part of her role as Public Engagement Officer on the Wellcome Trust Funded project, ‘Prisoners, Medical Care and Entitlement to Health in England and Ireland, 1850-2000’ in the UCD Centre for the History of Medicine in Ireland (UCD CHOMI).
McCann will work collaboratively to co-produce the public art project with UCD historians Associate Professor Catherine Cox, Dr Fiachra Byrne and Dr Holly Dunbar, as well as other historians based in England, who are also part of the Wellcome-funded project. This public intervention will take the form of a series of distinctive posters that will subversively occupy the private advertising space of two large billboards and a number of bus shelters in the Dublin 7 area. The posters will explore a range of historical and contemporary perspectives relating to Irish prison regimes and their impact on prisoners’ health.
Instead of seducing the public with shiny products or experiences to buy, these posters will offer humane and creative reflections on the provision of health in prisons asking key questions: a) why does solitary confinement continue to be used as a form of management and punishment in prisons despite its negative impact on young and adult prisoners’ mental health having been evident since the 1840s? b) why do ex-offenders still face obstacles when reintegrating into their families and society – from finding housing and employment to accessing addiction services – when these problems have detrimentally effected ex-offenders health on release for over a century?
In the context of current attitudes about prisoners, the artwork over the course of 12 days seeks to temporarily make these aspects of prison experiences more visible to the passer-by prompting them to consider why they have endured.