A new ban on the release of inmates artwork from the Guantanamo prison has some Americans riled up. Up until recently, inmates were permitted to take their art with them upon their release or hand their work off to their attornies. Psychologists stress the value of art within prisons as many inmates find it therapeutic. Recently, however, Pentagon representatives have created a ban on taking the artwork outside the prison when they noticed some of the pieces up for sale at an exhibit in New York. 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 creations are being claimed by the government and, even more so, that the U.S. Military has been instructed to instead burn their art.
Freedom of Speech
The Pentagon is receiving significant backlash for these 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 is a form of censorship, as it is violating the rights of inmates to express themselves harmlessly.
One longtime inmate refers to this controversy with a tweet stating, “next it will be books,” referencing famous German poet, Heinrich Heine’s, “where they burn books, they will also ultimately burn people.”
A Conflicting Solution
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.