Inside the Documentary


If you were confined to a 9' x 11' space with small, narrow windows you could hardly see out of for 23 hours per day and which you shared with another person, what would you do to pass the time? Where in your mind would you go?

“Inside Madison” is a documentary/art video that explores images and text drawn and written by prisoners on the cell walls of Madison Street Jail in downtown Phoenix, Arizona. Closed in 2005, the jail currently sits as a silent, dusty catacomb of hand drawn imagery that gives expression to how inmates spent their time, what they valued, and what they fixated on within their own walls. What makes these cell walls so unique is twofold. Prison policy throughout the country dictates that inmates are never allowed to draw on walls. The fact that so many cells on multiple floors are covered with drawings and writings suggest an authorized break from that policy, perhaps because both prisoners and guards knew the facility was going to close. More fascinating is the fact that many of these images and writings are striking in content and artistic quality, and were created with the only implement provided them - golf pencils.

“Inside Madison” incorporates interviews, narrative and music with video footage to explore the images and text which record lives and lifestyles that seem to swirl around the very basic themes of life. Themes present and repeated on the walls of the jail involve concepts of ancestral identity, cultural identity, gang affiliation, religion, alienation, time, fantasy and redemption. The video footage and documentary delves into the resourceful techniques the inmates used to create line, depth and texture to their images.