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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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THE TRUTH...

is the first thing despots go after. An unwavering commitment to it is probably what draws you to Mother Jones' journalism. And as we're seeing in the US and the world around, authoritarians seek to poison the discourse and the way we relate to each other because they can't stand people coming together around a shared sense of the truth—it's a huge threat to them.

Which is also a pretty great way to describe Mother Jones' mission: People coming together around the truth to hold power accountable.

And right now, we need to raise about $400,000 from our online readers over the next two months to hit our annual goal and make good on that mission. Read more about the information war we find ourselves in and how people-powered, independent reporting can and must rise to the challenge—and please support our team's truth-telling journalism with a donation if you can right now.

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