The Official Blog for Tattoo Artist Magazine

Dawn Cooke: Freedom

By Dawn Cooke
I hear talk about freedom all of the time. As an artist, my first amendment right is pretty important. The fact that we can share our thoughts freely is something we often take for granted. It’s easy to do because we are taught to believe that we are entitled to be free and we can do or say anything we want in this country. The truth is, that’s not entirely the case. You have to go along with society’s laws and norms for the most part because if you can’t find a productive place in society for whatever reason, society will find a place for you and it might not be a place you would like to go… 

Nothing makes you realize your freedom more than visiting a prison. I first stepped into the Huron Valley Women’s Prison for an orientation to work with the women in an art workshop (nothing to do with tattooing, just to clarify). It seemed just like any other state building I had ever been to, upon first glance. Obviously, going through security was arduous. They want you to account for every piece of jewelry and every item you take in, of course. Then they pat you down, look at your feet, shoes, in your mouth, and at this point you realize you are inside of a prison and every action and nuance of body language is under a microscope from both prison guards and prisoners. They give you an emergency device to keep on your person, in case someone tries to hurt you, I guess. The whole scene can be unnerving and yet strangely fascinating.

I realize that it is expected that there are violent criminals in prison, but the women I work with don’t seem threatening at all. They all seem like normal people who maybe had some problems in life and made some mistakes that they have to pay for. That’s not to say that there aren’t violent criminals that need to be dealt with; some of the women I have encountered are a little angry at the system and how our society operates. I think many of us could identify with that. A lot them have some substance abuse issues that got way out of control.

One of the prison policies is that a volunteer should not over-identify with a prisoner because they might fall prey to a ruse of some kind. I understand why this is a rule, but it is hard to try not to identify with some of the women because many of them are Moms like me. Some of them grew up with a single parent just like me. Some of them came from low-income families like me. There’s so much to identify with. The differences, I guess, are circumstances and choices. I don’t think having compassion should also be a crime, though. I don’t think being compassionate makes you vulnerable, though there are plenty of people who would take advantage of you because of it.

Women are the most growing demographic of prisoners in our country and we have to wonder why. I wonder why we lock people away in our society who were never given the tools to succeed in the first place. Why don’t they teach people in school how our laws work or maybe some life skills like how to grow food? Or if people have serious psychological issues, why aren’t they given access to the proper medical care? Instead we wage a WAR ON DRUGS. Or we just wage WAR in general. What about psychology and self-esteem? I guess it’s hard to feel confident when you’re not sure where to get food or if there’s no stability in a child’s household. I just am not sure that the best solution is to lock people up who are unable to conform. Maybe teaching them could be a better way.

Nothing makes you realize your freedom more than leaving a prison, but nothing makes you feel worse for the people still locked inside. I can’t fix the world’s problems, but I can try. One idea at a time, one blog at a time, one person at a time, starting with me.

Related TAM Blog Post:

(Dawn Cooke is a contributing blogger for Tattoo Artist Magazine can be found at Depot Town Tattoo, 33 East Cross St. Ypsilanti, MI 48197 www.dawncooke.net and www.dawncookeart.com)
 
Dawn Cooke is featured in Tattoo Artist Magazine #21:
 


3 responses

  1. Lovely ending, Dawn.
    Thanks for sharing your perspectives, always!
    -C

    September 18, 2012 at 6:04 PM

  2. Dawn, Thank you for speaking up for women who have lost their voice in this process. I admire that you are giving these women a vehicle to express themselves outside of the tools that landed them in prison. This topic is such a crazy iceberg, with many issues under the surface of the blanket “incarceration in America” that it is hard to stay focused on just one task. Bless you for using your talents to teach women to fish (proverbially), and keep your chin up– for every ten heartbreaks of there may be one who will use your input in their toolbox to help them lead a better life, a more free life.
    What a fitting place to discuss being a decent part of change– Tam Blog, kudos to you too. I think a huge part of my dedication to this way of life is because of the peaceful, centered, and proactive tattoo artists I get to come in contact with, and the fire they fuel in me in my own life.
    I cannot wait to hear more. You rule, kudos.
    m.

    September 21, 2012 at 2:57 PM

    • Thanks for reading This Blog Mary. I appreciate hearing that you got something out of this.

      I know everyone is busy and finding time to volunteer can be difficult. But the reason I started to do this was because I found myself becoming increasingly disenfranchised by injustices I see in the world and very opinionated and yet not doing anything about the problems. I think every person can do something to leave this world a better place then they found it, no matter how small the task. Thanks for the support!!!

      September 21, 2012 at 8:49 PM

Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 1,796,249 other followers