Art as Therapy- Excerpt from “Medical Marijuana Pioneer Doing Life in Federal Prison” Written by Unk
At the age of 19, Michael went to New York to study and be certified as a watchmaker at the Bulova School of Watchmaking. In 1980 he also became certified in diamond setting and jewelry repair in Florida. However, these skills were of no use to Michael upon his entry into Terre Haute Federal Penitentiary.
With no prison jobs available other than menial labor, Michael began painting in the prison’s art program which allowed inmates to practice in their cells. He practiced in his cell for a couple years, selling his work to other inmates, to help sustain himself as the prison provides no stipend, thereby rendering him indigent. In federal prison inmates must rely on their own resources to provide themselves with daily necessities, other than meals, which requires them to purchase everything from soap to potato chips from commissary.
Michael continued practicing art in his cell and would at times proudly display his work to the warden during weekly inspections. The warden encouraged Michael to continue his work until, one day, an assistant warden shut his practice down declaring that all art must be done in the facilities recreation building… a quarter mile trek for Michael in his wheelchair through snow, sleet or rain.
Michael complied and now makes his daily trip to the recreation building… which now employs him as an art instructor. As a matter of fact, he recently was granted a raise from $5.00 to $20.00 a month!