The Beat Within is a decade-old, nationwide writing program for incarcerated youth. “Words not Weapons” is the organization’s credo, inspiring these young adults – males and females of all ethnicities – to learn that words and images are more effective than violence. Illustrations from the Inside features the pencil drawings created by these youth, giving an intimate perspectives on these artists and the system they must struggle through, in some cases for the rest of their lives.
The context for the illustrations by these juveniles is created by a number of contributors who have interacted with The Beat Within and its participants, appreciating how the act of expressing oneself artistically helps to heal wounds, as well as decipher the past, present and future. Author Louis E.V. Nevaer writes about The Beat Within and his involvement with the program, describing first-hand how many of these young men and women respond to having their doodles and scrawls considered worthwhile. San Francisco Public Defender Jeff Adachi shares his perspective on the legal system’s handling of juvenile offenders and how a program like The Beat Within attempts to change these trends for the betterment of the juveniles and culture at large.
Renowned photographer Joseph Rodriguez did an entire book about these incarcerated juveniles, and his photographs included in Illustrations from the Inside provide visual references of the physical environments prisoners inhabit. The foreword from novelist Adam Mansbach parallels the similarities between the book’s contents and graffiti’s beginnings in New York City and how it traveled across the United States.
Remarkable for its execution, compelling in terms of content and chock-full of varied imagery, from Homer Simpson to extravagant, mural worthy scenes, Illustrations from the Inside humanizes these juveniles in a way that the penal system resists.
Illustrations from the Inside by Louis E.V. Nevaer