What You Draw When You're in Prison for Murder

Brogan Rafferty, a subject of Hanna Rosin's September magazine story, is serving a life sentence. Here's what he's been doing in his cell.

1-jester1.jpgJester (July 11, 2012)

This was from a period of about two months when I was alone in the county jail. So much pain went into this that I can gaze upon it today, over a year later, and it can still draw suffering. I look like a clown to represent how I "laugh" on the outside and "cry" on the inside. Minus the makeup, that's pretty much how I looked. My hair was long because I couldn't get a haircut in jail, so I slicked it back, and I had a face full of whiskers because they wouldn't let me shave (my neck itched!).

While in jail, I threw myself into my Bible reading. I read the entire Bible cover to cover in the first six months I was locked up. (And I'm here to say it is by far the best, most beneficial book you will ever read.) The Celtic crucifix is a very powerful image to me. My father wears one around his neck, always has. It was probably the first thing I ever saw associated with God. Together in the picture, these two things [the Bible and the cross] symbolize that despite my efforts to bring God into my life, my past experiences haunt me so much that I throw my hands up, turning my face to the heavens, screaming in anguish.

The bottle of whiskey and the shot glass on the window ledge represent my alcoholism, the only release (however superficial and temporary) that has even come close to helping me through this. (God got me through it alive, but that doesn't make it any easier.) I'll have been locked up for two years this November. Had I been able to drink as I pleased this entire time, I'd be dead. I have the superhuman urge--even now--to step into a bar and drink until I drop dead off the barstool. I want it more than anything, and I have no idea why. It's almost a sort of instinct that I can't fight, like how an alley cat goes off behind a dumpster to die after it gets hit by a car. Some might say I'm morbid for thinking this way, but I believe that just as we accept our lives without complaint, so too must we accept our own deaths. (Job 2:10)

2-cross.jpgCrucifixion (July 28, 2012)

I got this idea, oddly enough, from watching Silence of the Lambs. The basic concept of this is that I was being "crucified" by the very tools that were supposed to protect me (the legal system, the courts, "justice," all represented by the American flag, Constitution, and Bill of Rights, which are being used to burn me at the stake).

And all of it is happening in the "spotlight," as a spectacle for the public. They even slapped the Hannibal Lecter mask on me to make me look like a monster. I hold in my hand another Celtic crucifix as I quietly endure. (I was going to put a Bible in the other hand, but I didn't want to give the impression that I was some saint, or thought myself a righteous holy man.)

3-cell.jpgIllumination (September 6, 2012)

This was an idea I had when I was still in the juvenile detention center: the Bible illuminating not me but some inmate in the solitary-confinement cells in prison--the darkest, loneliest places on Earth, the pit at the bottom of the world. (I've since been there, and it's every bit as bad as I imagined.) On the walls, the bars cast shadows that become Christ being crucified.

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