CENTER, TX (KTRE) - It’s not the norm to find a full-fledged art school behind prison doors, but at the Shelby County Jail, a new project is helping inmates channel their inner Picasso.
The inmates have been using their art skills to draw murals of the mascots from area schools.
“There’s a lot of talent that needs to be utilized,” said William Cox, the jail administrator.
From terrifying Tenaha Tigers, to fire breathing Shelbyville Dragons, the inmates are proving through their artwork that there is something more to life behind jail house doors.
“I just didn’t want it to look like a dungeon in here and I thought, you know, if we just represented every school in the county, just put it on the wall, it might brighten things up,” Cox said.
The idea came about when Cox realized some of his inmates could draw, he said.
“One of them brought me a drawing he had done of John Wayne with just a pencil and it was excellent,” Cox said.
Most of the murals are free-hand drawings, and the inmates said the project is like a breath of fresh air.
“Man, it’s like a getaway for me. I get lost in my art,” said Mark Gassiott.
“It adds some color to the place. It gives us something positive to do and brings back positive results,” said Cody Breelane.
Larry Thomas said he likes the project because it’s a way for him to showcase his skills.
“This is the first time we got to do something for someone, you know? It opened up my mind a little bit,” Thomas said.
But what Cox likes is how well the inmates are adapting to the project and realizing their true potential.
“There’s no reason a jail should be like a dungeon. They’ve made mistakes and some of them may not have even made mistakes. They may be here and they may be found guilty of their charges,” Cox said.
And for the inmates, it’s a chance for them to experience life through different eyes.
“It gave me an opportunity to be somewhere else other than these walls. I mean, it’s like, when I draw, I spread my wings. I fly. I soar,” said James Pendleton.
In the next week, the inmates will begin painting Texas college murals. Cox said he even wants to try to start doing tours with area schools so the kids can see the murals, but also to influence the kids to stay in school and out of jail.