Decorative Justice: Deconstructing the Relationship between the Arts and Imprisonment

Leonidas Cheliotis

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


This article synthesises diverse material to discuss both state use of the arts for the purposes of controlling prisoners and the broader public, and the use made of the arts by prisoners and portions of the broader public as tools of resistance to penal states. The article proceeds with an analysis of the politics surrounding and underpinning the philosophy, formation, operation, effectiveness, and research evaluation of arts-in-prisons programmes in the contemporary Anglo-American world. It argues that arts-in-prisons programmes and pertinent evaluation research are often employed as means to a variety of latent ignoble ends, with ‘decorative justice’ – the function of masking the injustices and painful nature of imprisonment behind claims of fairness, benevolence and care – chief amongst these ends.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)16-34
JournalInternational Journal for Crime, Justice and Social Democracy
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2014


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