First Freedoms in Captivity

First Freedoms in Captivity Exhibition

Not every American has access to the five freedoms in the First Amendment. 

What we consider our innate rights, rights that many of us take for granted, are not as accessible to those currently incarcerated or to those who serve in the military.

The protections of the First Amendment look, feel, and act differently for them. In one instance those rights are forfeited voluntarily, in the other, they are forfeited as punishment.

To explore this complicated relationship, museum staff visited two Maine prisons – Maine Correctional Center and Maine State Prison – and taught incarcerated veterans about the First Amendment, then asked them to illustrate their own experiences with their five freedoms.

The result is the artwork that you see here. 

This artwork amplifies the voices of a usually silent population. We invite you to listen to their voices by viewing their art.

Click on each image to enlarge.

 America’s Brave
 Color pencil, 2021

“America has given me more blessings than I will ever know.

Where my patriotism came from, I don’t really know.  As a child I remember always appreciating our flag and all the America the beautiful songs.

When I was old enough, I knew a soldier is what I wanted to be.  I didn’t know the time would come that fate and poor choices would not allow that to be.

I may no longer wear the uniform of a proud U.S. Army soldier and warrior, but my heart, mind and soul will always salute and support our troops of the Armed Forces.

Those brave men and women who put their lives in harm’s way in order that I may awake and know I am free

I may be incarcerated today, but I will never forget those who gave all so that I may someday walk free.

God Bless America.” – Anonymous at Maine State Prison

A Prisoner’s View
 Color pencil, 2021

“I served 20 years in the navy; I am now serving 4 ½ years in prison. There are some similarities between prison life and the military. When you enter the military, you willingly sign a contract giving up your First Amendment rights, in prison they don’t tell you, you lost them, but you learn fast when you try to exercise that right, it comes with consequences.

My art piece represents how I feel about the military and prison. In the military, they build your pride and self-worth whereas in prison tries its best to strip you of it. In the future I will work hard to regain what I earned and lost.

Thank you for viewing my art piece.” Anonymous at Maine State Prison

Acrylic, 2021

Anonymous at Maine State Prison

Cyber Sam
Graphite, 2021

“This is my depiction of how I see the United States. We have become blind to everything around us and focused solely on what is presented to us in the form of media. This is fed to us by the big companies who have bought their way into politics. They have spent their money buying politicians and those politicians have passed the types of bills necessary to garner greater power to those who are not elected. The rules in politics have become ‘go along to stay along.’” – Anonymous at Maine State Prison

Death Before Dishonor
Color markers, 2021

“The eagle represents the freedom that the First Amendment gives us. 

The pistols and the skull represent the severity of how far we are willing to go to protect our First Amendment rights. 

We would rather die than allow someone to take them from us.” – Anonymous at Maine State Prison

Freedom is a Pipe Dream
Color pencil, 2021

“My piece is to show that as citizens we are free to assemble, however, in the military, we are informed that we can’t attend political rallies but we won’t be stopped and if we’re seen on tv at a rally we will be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the uniform code of military justice and released form service under a dishonorable discharge.

The handcuffs represent the department of corrections and the fact that as prisoners / “residents” we can’t assemble without permission from the corrections officers and administration. In the military life and being locked up we lose a lot of our First Amendment rights compared to being free.” – Anonymous at Maine State Prison

Freedom Within
Paper, string, gum wrappers, 2021

“For me as an incarcerated Veteran, I noticed several similarities between being incarcerated and being on active duty dealing with the 1st Amendment.

Both prison and the service have a rigid set of rules and structures that restrict the individual’s behavior and freedom but for different reasons. The service requires strict adherence to order and structure for the purpose of cohesion of its members to accomplish its missions and goals. Prison requires strict adherence to order and structure to maintain safety and security within a facility. The rigid rules and structures of both the service and prison restrict certain freedoms of the 1st Amendment. Speech is one of them, freedom of assembly is another.

My Project depicts a bird within a cage of red, white, and blue. The bird symbolizes freedom within confinement. Even though I am behind bars, I can still sing.” – Anonymous at Maine State Prison

Restrictive Rights
Graphite, 2021

Anonymous at Maine Correctional Center.

Salute the Flag
Color pencil, 2021

Anonymous at Maine Correctional Center.

This I Will Defend
Color pencil, 2021

Anonymous at Maine Correctional Center.

Twinkle of Hope
Acrylic, 2021

“In the vast darkness of the universe, our only hope is the sparkle of light, and so it feels our only hope for freedom in these dark times is the sparkle of our First Amendment rights.” – Anonymous at Maine State Prison

Graphite, 2021

“Fraudulent Freedom: To me, the words fraudulent freedom is that the 1st amendment gives the press (News Media) too much free range on what they can communicate to the public. For instance, if you were to be accused of committing a crime and the press only reported what you were being accused of and not the facts or getting both sides of the accusation then that gives the public a negative view of your case and it is impossible to select an impartial jury.

False Justice: This represents to me when a person, if wrongfully convicted of a crime, due to an alleged victim’s criminal false accusations.

Lady Justice: The lady justice is a reflection of my time in the army. The blindfold is to portray the things one sees but can not speak of during their time of service.

The Hands: The hands being handcuffed show that when one is incarcerated they no longer have the ability to exercise their right to freedom of speech without consequences.” – Anonymous at Maine State Prison