WHERE TO SHOP
One of my favorite prisons for shopping is in Palau in Micronesia. Using native hard woods, inmates carve intricate "story boards" that often depict rich local legends. The shop at the Koror Jail, in the center of Koror, is open to the public.
Prisoners in jails throughout the Southwest make panos -- ink drawings on white handkerchiefs. The subject matter ranges from religious to secular, from lovers to lowriders. I am in good company when I buy pano art; the Smithsonian has a collection. Call your local prison to see if it sells to the public.
Historic Rawlins Frontier Prison, in Rawlins, Wyo., sells chalk pictures and jewelry made by inmates at nearby Rawlins State Penitentiary. Sometimes woodworking is available. 500 W. Walnut St., Rawlins. (307) 324-4422.
The Prison Art Gallery, 1600 K St. N.W., Suite 501, Washington, D.C. 20006; (202) 393-1511, www.prisonsfoundation.org, has more than 1,000 works by imprisoned artists, all on display and for sale. Open 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Mondays, and 1 to 5 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays.
If you can't travel to prisons to buy art, go to: www.bighouseart.com, www.artbehindbars.org and www.prisonart.org. The selections on these sites include jewelry, clothes, oil paintings and drawings produced with colored pens and toothpaste.