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Richard Kamler’s muse is the cell block. Nearly 20 years of work as a teacher and artist in residence at jails, prisons, and halfway houses inspired Kamler to create The Table of Voices: Conversations on the Criminal Justice System. Currently featured at San Francisco’s Alcatraz Island, the work enables visitors to hear the taped voices of victims and perpetrators of violent crime. Its focal point is a long “visiting room” table of gold leaf and lead, bisected by a thick safety glass. Opposing rows of phones connect listeners to the participants’ stories of grief and rage — and to their stories of reconciliation and forgiveness. One woman “sits” across the table from her son’s killer. She had pushed for a maximum sentence, but after realizing rage was consuming her, she eventually worked for the man’s early release. “He helped me understand the power of forgiveness,” she says. Victims’ rights groups have protested Kamler’s attention to the murderers’ stories, claiming they do a disservice to the memory of their murdered friends and family members. But Kamler says the work’s purpose is to reveal the humanity of all those involved with a crime. “Without models of forgiveness — types of behavior we can aspire to — we have little hope.” Despite the attention it has received, the table may soon go silent. Kamler plans shows for Detroit and Chicago, but says he has had a problem finding venues with room for the 54-foot table. For information, call (415) 566-3811.

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DEMOCRACY DOES NOT EXIST...

without free and fair elections, a vigorous free press, and engaged citizens to reclaim power from those who abuse it.

In this election year unlike any other—against a backdrop of a pandemic, an economic crisis, racial reckoning, and so much daily crazy—Mother Jones' journalism is driven by one simple question: Will America move closer to, or further from, justice and equity in the years to come?

If you're able to, please join us in this mission with a donation today. Our reporting right now is focused on voting rights and election security, corruption, disinformation, racial and gender equity, and the climate crisis. We can’t do it without the support of readers like you, and we need to give it everything we've got between now and November. Thank you.

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