Aimed at humanizing and shedding light on the realities and experiences of detained migrants, this illustration is part of Visions From the Inside, a visual art collection based on letters written by detained migrants at the Karnes County detention center, a for-profit immigrant family detention center in Texas.
This illustration is based off of a letter from 29-year-old Polyane Soares de Oliveira describing her fears of physical and sexual abuse for her 10 year old daughter, herself, and the other women and children in the prison, and the experiences of 19-year-old Lilian Oliva who was discovered in the detention center bleeding from cuts to her wrist. Artist Favianna Rodriguez created this piece “to depict both the dignity and the suffering that women endure in for-profit detention centers. The women detained in Karnes County Detention Center have endured physical abuse, rape by prison guards, and the constant sicknesses of their children. In this piece, I wanted to show the ways in which prison degrades and abuses women. I used a jagged brush stroke to show the harshness of detention, and the human suffering of women who come to this country in search of a safe haven.” The illustration shows drawings of three imprisoned women, an image of a leg with an ankle monitor on it, and a quote from Lilian’s letter, “You’ve been killing me little by little with punishment…”
Visions From the Inside was created by CultureStrike in partnership with Mariposas Sin Fronteras, and End Family Detention, in collaboration with the migrants who shared their letters and stories and the 15 artists across the United States who created the visual art pieces.
Read the letter written by one of the women whose stories informed this illustration. What is she saying about her experiences and how have they been captured in the illustration? What is the significance of different parts of the drawing, including how the women in the image are presented, the significance of the ankle monitor, and the impact of the quote? What “punishment” or punishments are being referred to? How are reading the letter and looking at the illustration different in terms of visual and emotional impact? What can you gain from one that you cannot from the other?
How do words and labels matter when speaking about migrants, refugees, immigrants, and the boundaries of national belonging and identity? What’s the difference between referring to someone as “illegal” versus “undocumented”? How does this language matter for the people, institutions, and laws that govern their lives?
What and who comes to mind when you think of people in jails and prisons? How does this illustration and the others in the series complicate these associations?
How are migrants, immigrants, and refugees represented in the media? How do other aspects of identity, such as gender, sexuality, class, religion, race, nationality, and ethnicity factor into these representations? What are some examples in news, television, movies, music, and other kinds of popular culture? Are these representations positive, negative, overly simplified, complex, or mixed? How?
These letters are from migrants detained in a for-profit detention center. What is the significance of this detention center being a for-profit organization? How do they make money? What sustains the organization?
Look at the other illustrations and stories from the Visions From the Inside collection. What common themes emerge?