Work of the Penitent, is a solo exhibition by the artist Raymond E. Mingst. It was on view at Curious Matter from December 2, 2007 - January 27, 2008. I wrote the essay on the work.
Here is the first paragraph:
There have been prisons, ever since there have been civilizations with laws that could be violated, but the idea of reforming the criminal was a notion of the kind-hearted Quakers.
The Quaker idea of prisoner rehabilitation was the penitentiary. It included isolating the prisoner in a cell by himself with his thoughts. The assumption was, that after a few days of idleness, the prisoner would request something to do, whereupon, he would be given a Bible and work. When he wasn’t working, the prisoner was expected to read the Bible and reflect on his misdeeds. The expectation was that through prayer and reflection, the prisoner would come to understand the wrong of his sins and crimes and repent. He was not allowed visitors, or contact with any other prisoners, in order to foster his new life of redemption. It was thought that without contact, the prisoners cronies and co-harts would disperse or disappear, leaving the prisoner to begin a new life when released, free from his evil past.
To read the rest of the essay, please go to Curious Matter.