The imprisonment of writers in the UK has become such a standardized punishment within these countries that for a while now, news about graffiti artists being sentenced to months and even years has ceased to surprise us anymore. But that fact that we have assimilated this peculiar occurrence, doesn’t mean that such measures taken against graffiti are proportionate to the damage done or the severity off the matter, nor does it pose a viable solution.
In this very interesting article by Vice magazine -written by Maya Oppenheim-, regardless of the recurrentbroken windows theory explanation, we aren’t given a specific reason to justify the harsh sentences coming down on paint related vandalism, just as its title announces. However, it does analyze many aspects of the problems that incarceration can have on writers later one in their development with social coexistence. Interesting testimonies by some incarcerated artists help us to understand what it’s like going through an experience like this.
We strongly recommend reading this article, but for the lazier ones we’ll leave you with some fragments that deserve to be highlighted.
You end up with a lot of criminal contacts. Also, it really broke my work ethic. I used to be in full-time employment, so being banged up, lying on a bed for 23 hours, talking to a crackhead about armed robbery for weeks at a time threw me off. Going through that whole process – the bail, the courts, the police, prison and probation – is really what makes you a criminal.” Mike Robson
“They think (graffiti new generations) to be a prolific graff writer you have to have done time. But you’re supposed to be known for being prolific at what you do, not because the police have made you prolific.” Mike Robson
“I was mixed with murderers, rapists and serial killers. How am I rubbing shoulders with a high-profile armed robber who’s killed people when all I’ve done is graffiti?” G. Money
In other words, if a commuter sees some bubble letters on a panel rather an advert, they might think they’re about to get their bag nicked.
The Broken Windows Theory has been widely criticised by criminologists, with one study concluding that “the relationship between disorder and serious crime is modest, and even that relationship is largely an artefact of more fundamental social forces”.
The fact is: people aren’t going to stop doing graffiti, so why not direct already stretched resources towards crime that actually affects people?