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Helena jail inmates find peace through art contest

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Posted at 3:26 PM, Nov 05, 2021
and last updated 2021-11-05 17:26:45-04

HELENA — Art can be a form of therapy for some which is why the Lewis and Clark County Detention Center held an art contest for inmates — and three were awarded coffee and candy,

Being inside the four walls of the jail in Helena, inmates are faced with challenges of their past present and future. A recent art contest is helping them express themselves.

“It was pretty exciting I didn’t expect it at first when the contest was [being judged], I expected more like the second or third place because there is always a better drawer,” said John Cassel, who took first place.

He has been at the detention center for four months and says he and his father-in-law worked together on the piece, and after he left, he began to add more details.

Cassel tells MTN News it has inspired him to look at art as a career after his sentence.

"It was pretty overwhelming to see that I got first place for it, it pursues me to keep going into the direction of tattooing and stuff like that,” said Cassel.

Cassel drew his photo of freedom, and how the detention center will help him learn to grow from his mistakes.

For Joesph Henderson, starting the project was difficult but, taking second place was a happy surprise.

“It felt wonderful for being in jail and drawing something like that,” said Henderson.

Henderson says it was like stepping back outside into his old work, "I used to tattoo and stuff, and I used to draw before."

Henderson is excited about the next art contest and sets a goal to take first place.

The contest also helped build a connection between Joshua Morris and detention center officers. Morris says it was an officer who encouraged him to enter the contest after seeing his work.

"I’ve been doodling around and I send my kids some birthday presents and stuff because that’s all I got in here,” said Morris.

Morris says drawing gives him an activity and helps break the feeling of isolation.

“I am pretty isolated, I don’t watch tv with the other guys, it kind of gets me away from the chatter and the loudness,” said Morris.

The Lewis and Clark County Detention Center will be holding another contest for the inmates for the holidays.