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Mass incarceration in the U.S. and the penal system’s differential application of laws begs the question: Who gets to be a legitimate mother in the United States? Rickie Solinger raises this question in an exhibition that features art created by incarcerated mothers, as well as letters, photographs, and legal documents shared by current and former prisoners. The exhibition marks the first time a major outside exhibition opened in a prison. The installation then traveled to various college campuses, museums, and institutes. In the related article Solinger wrote about the exhibition, she comments on the rules governing visits by children. They are, Solinger says, “hard to read and impossible to avoid. They are, in totality, often contradictory and illogical. For incarcerated women, however, they are The Rules; they must be memorized and treated as watchwords.” If incarcerated people mess up The Rules, Solinger says, “the consequences are harsh.” “Violations of any visiting rule outlined in this policy may result in the termination of the visit, disciplinary action against the inmate, and restriction of any future visiting privilege.” The Rules restrict, for instance, “how many hugs and kisses a mother can give her child, who is not allowed, in any case, to sit on her mother’s lap.”

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