A new ban on the release of inmates artwork from the Guantanamo prison has got Americans all riled up. A lawyer quoted his client, who is currently an inmate in the prison, saying that the U.S. Military has been instructed to burn the artwork. Up until recently, inmates were permitted to take their art with them when their time was up. They were also allowed to give their work to their attorneys who would be allowed to take the artwork after it was screened adequately for secret messages. Psychologists stress the value of art within prisons. Many inmates find it therapeutic in the way that it allows them to express themselves.
Representatives of the Pentagon created the ban when they noticed that some of the artwork is up for sale at an exhibit in New York’s John Jay College of Criminal Justice. Pentagon’s spokesman Air Force Maj. Ben Sakrisson stated that the artwork is the property of the U.S. government. Inmates are angered by the fact that their work is being claimed by the government and, even more so, by the fact it will be burned.
The Pentagon is receiving significant backlash and criticism for their actions. Americans highly value the freedom of speech which gives citizens the right to articulate their ideas without fearing retaliation, censorship, or sanction. Citizens feel that the Pentagon’s ban this is a form of censorship, as it is violating the rights of inmates to express themselves harmlessly.
One longtime inmate refers to the famous German Jewish poet, Heinrich Heine’s quote “Where they burn books, they will also ultimately burn people,” with his tweet “next it will be books.”
Members of the Pentagon purposed archiving the artwork rather than incinerating it. Attorney Ramzi Kassem, whose clients are some of the most creative artists within the prison, argues that archiving the work is the same as incinerating it because both actions make it as if the art no longer exists. He tells reporters that “they’re just not going to burn it because that looks bad, but if no one gets to see the art, they might as well be incinerating it.” The controversy surrounding this situation remains high. Attorneys plan to put up a fight for as long as their client’s rights are taken from them.