Genesis United Methodist  Nov. 11 6CBI student Jonathan was only twenty-two years old when a jury was asked to determine the length of his life. Already convicted for murder, Jonathan faced the jury again as they decided whether to apply the death penalty to his case. Though Jonathan hoped for a speedy trial and believed that he deserved death, his lawyers had other ideas. They showed Jonathan’s art and poetry to the jury and spoke of the people who loved him. In response, the jury decided to give him a sentence of life imprisonment.

Since then, Jonathan has come to understand art as a passion that helped save his life—in more ways than one. He now has a worthy pursuit to fill his days. “Art and writing are one of the wonderful ways we can create and express beauty and emotion,” says Jonathan. “With those creations we can help make the world a little better with each and every piece.”

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Inmate art by Peter R.


CBI students like Jonathan have been creating and mailing their artwork along with their Bible study lessons for decades. Since 1999, CBI has published their artwork in the Crossroad Journal of the Arts, which is sent to both CBI students and constituents. The on-campus inmate art gallery currently houses seventy-five pieces, and thirty more are part of the mini-exhibit that travels to churches, businesses and schools.

CBI student art changes the way people think about prisoners. Because prisoners have acted outside of the norms that govern civil society, people sometimes feel contempt and distrust for them—even come to view prisoners as somehow less than human.

But inmate art challenges this perspective. Look at a piece of inmate art and it becomes difficult to avoid the following conclusion: only someone who feels, who loves, who is moved by beauty and who can respond to truth could create such a piece. This broader understanding of people in prison is at the heart of CBI’s discipleship program.

Inmate art by Randall G.

Inmate art by Randall G.


Inmate art offers visitors a more complete vision of those in prison, and CBI invites you to experience art behind bars. Visit the Crossroad Inmate Art Gallery at our Grand Rapids headquarters or book the traveling art exhibit today.